Friday, June 06, 2008subscribe to demonbaby

Exploring The Creation Museum - America's New Mecca of Fanatical Ignorance

[Currently Going To: Hell]

If you ask the average Christian what The Bible means to them, you're likely to get a wide variety of answers, but in most cases it's probably a somewhat personal thing. They identify with the stories, they regard the teachings of Jesus as guidelines for their lives, they believe He's their salvation, et cetera et cetera. Most would probably tell you that The Bible is a very important book to them - maybe the most important thing they've ever read. They would tell you it guides their daily lives, provides them hope, sculpts their sense of morality, et cetera, et cetera. What the majority of them would hopefully have a very hard time telling you, however, is that The Bible is meant to be interpreted as a literal history book. That every single word of it is a literal truth. Even the most devout Christian will likely tell you that the story of Adam and Eve is merely an allegory* - and they'd be right. It's a simple way of conveying the general Christian ideas of God's relationship with man, and the nature of sin. I suppose the original authors of the Old Testament may have believed it to be absolutely true, but to put that in context, the prevailing wisdom of the time was that God kept the sun in a boat full of deities who sailed across the sky every day trying to prevent said sun from being eaten by an evil serpent.

Thousands of years later, we've discovered that the sun is in fact a giant ball of gasses, and it doesn't sail across the sky, but merely appears to because our planet is (believe it or not) round, and constantly rotating. We've discovered all of this, and a lot more, very slowly over hundreds of thousands of years through the compounded knowledge of millions of people throughout history pooling their intellectual efforts in a meticulous process known as science. And it works. It works so well it has given us automobiles, electricity, space travel, modern medicine, video games, butt funnels, and the network of computers delivering this website to you right at this moment - all of which were developed in the thousands of years after The Bible was written by a persecuted ancient people desperate for supernatural intervention. Whether its authors were channeling the word of God or not is a debate for another day - but what we know, for a fact, they were not doing, is writing the literal history of the Universe. Well, most of us know that for a fact. The people who believe otherwise call themselves Young Earth Creationists.

Young Earth Creationists are a batshit-crazy sect of religious fanatics at the deep end of Christian fundamentalism, who believe that The Bible is, quote, "the history book of the Universe." They believe every word of The Bible is not only the word of God, but is absolute literal truth, and the only truth in the Universe against which all other truths must be compared. So, of course, a manmade concept like science is a flawed, malleable thing which must be twisted around in order to fit with the words of The Bible. The most brazen of modern Young Earth Creationists (YECs, for short) believe this can be done without compromising religion or science. What, then, does The Bible say about history? Well, among other things, it says that the world is roughly 6,000 years old, dating the dawn of man to a period of time rich with recorded history of the development of urban cultures and early technology. So not merely evolution, but all of our concepts of the earth being millions of years old, the lineage of dinosaurs, the ice age, early man, and the entire history of human civilization - all of that is horribly incorrect, according to the YECs. All of the evidence gathered over thousands of years to support the history of the world has been misconstrued by secular scientists to further the "evolutionist agenda." 99.9 percent of scientists and experts in relevant fields are apparently drastically, drastically mistaken, but a tiny group of blue collar yokels have it all figured out. Riiiiiiight.

YECs are a comically ignorant cult of horrendously misguided fruitcakes, but the problem isn't their ludicrous beliefs. For all I care you can believe that God is a space turtle who shits out the world every morning and eats it again every night, and one day the world will hatch open and the almighty Son of Turtle God will emerge from the placenta of the earth and vomit rainbows onto the true believers before carrying them on His back to the promised land of Turtopia. It's a free country, go nuts. The problem with Young Earth Creationists - and most all flavors of Creationists, for that matter - is that they have a disproportionately loud voice, and believe they need to fight back against the "lies" of science in the public sphere. They've introduced the less-crazy-sounding term "intelligent design," and their greatest achievement thus far has been creating the idea, in the media, in the government, and in the minds of many Americans, that there is a "debate" in regards to evolution. Scientists even fall prey to this, feeling the need to counter Creationist pseudo-science to defend the legitimacy of real science. Creationists are like internet trolls, shouting mindless garbage in caps-lock, baiting people who should know better into engaging them in debate. And like internet trolls, Creationists can never lose, because they've thrown logic and reason out the window so they can fight with their own set of nonsensical rules. But here's the thing: There is no debate. None at all. Evolution vs. Young Earth Creationism is not a debate any more than evolution vs. any of the world's thousands of other wildly varying creation myths. There are plenty of places to inject God into the scientific history of the Universe, if that's your thing, but six thousand years ago is not one of them. The earth was not made in six days. The important thing for rational people to grasp is not that they're on the right side of the argument, but that there isn't an argument to begin with, and we need to stop humoring these fundamentalist looney toons as if they have a place at the table table of civilized discourse, and instead focus on exposing them as the dangerous group of extremists they are. Picking and choosing which aspects of hard-won science you agree with is perilous territory, especially when the people who make our laws start to listen (you can dig a little deeper into my thoughts on all that here if you're so inclined).

With all that in mind, I'd like to take you on a shamelessly intolerant journey through the bizarro world of Young Earth Creationist pseudo-science, as we explore... The Creation Museum.

I can't believe they went there, but I'm so glad they did.

There's a fine line between faith and stubbornness. One can only imagine how difficult it must be for Young Earth Creationists, clinging devoutly to beliefs so outrageous even their fellow Christians won't back them up. As a Creationist parent, how do you explain to your curious children that their teachers are lying, their books are lying, their movies and TV shows are lying? How do you successfully indoctrinate a developing mind with your true version of history when everyone else seems determined to beat God's word to a bloody pulp and dance on its corpse? Well, the best way is to isolate yourself from common sense, restricting your child to Creationist literature, Creationist schooling, and now, The Creationist Museum.

Ken Ham wants to eat your childrenFor those of you who haven't heard about this yet (and I'm surprised how many people still haven't), The Creation Museum is the crowning achievement of religious stupidity - a shrine of ignorance that only America's chewy center could play host to. It's a $27 million dollar, 60,000 square foot state-of-the-art complex in Kentucky, designed to look and feel exactly like a science/natural history museum. It has elaborate dioramas of animals and nature, audio-visual presentations, animatronic dinosaurs, fossil replicas, diagrams of geological formations, and even a gift shop. But one small detail sets it distinctly apart from other science museums you've probably visited: There is not a single shred of science on display within its walls. Worse still, its very existence is a bold mockery of science itself.

The museum was built and privately funded by a group called Answers In Genesis, whose founder is a skeletal Australian crackpot named Ken Ham. Ham, as you can see in the picture on the left, looks like an evil Abe Lincoln and would seem very much at home eating human fetuses to sustain his life force. He was indoctrinated from birth with strict Creationist ideology, and has devoted his life to spreading the "true word of God" while waging war on evolutionary science, which he believes to be a termite infestation in the wooden foundation of a good Christian society. Ham thinks of evolution as a sort of "gateway drug" into the Godless world of secularism. After all, he argues, if you don't believe in The Bible's account of Creation, what's to stop you from taking liberties with The Bible's other teachings? Start thinking we all evolved from monkeys and pretty soon you'll be snorting crack, aborting babies, and doing all kinds of fag stuff (in other words, my typical friday evenings), and, well, there goes the neighborhood.

For someone who doesn't believe in evolution, Ham also looks remarkably like Dr. Zaius:

Here's an introduction to Ken Ham's Creationist crazytalk - this is a clip from a presentation Ham made for poor impressionable Christian children, doomed to play out their lives inside a dark chamber of ignorance. Watch how cunningly manipulative he is in his simplified discussion of science vs. The Bible:

Notice the condescending way Ham speaks to the children - as if they're pests he must deal with only because it's necessary to further his agenda. After all, no free-thinking adult would ever subscribe to any of this crap, so the lies have to be soaked into spongy pint-sized brains eager to believe anything they're told. That's the chief motivation behind Mr. Ham's pride and joy - the oily skidmark on the underpants of American reason that is The Creation Museum. I was recently in Kentucky on business and was fortunate enough to take a field trip out to this mecca of lunacy - and of course, I documented every step for your enjoyment.

Upon arrival at the museum, I didn't even have to get any farther than the parking lot to understand I was in hostile territory. We're talking Bush-voting, gun-toting, gay-fearing, redder-than-red state Bible Belt fundamentalism here. Nearly every car in the lot was speckled with Jesus fish, right wing slogans, yellow ribbons, and bumper stickers offering scary religious rhetoric. I had wondered if this museum would be a novelty, a quirky roadside attraction filled with as many snickering skeptics as devout fanatics - but it became quickly clear that indeed, this was a place built with passion for the true believers, here to soak up knowledge and explore a version of junk science that finally makes them feel sane in an insane world. It was my friend and I, the black-clad blue state secular heathens, who were noticeably out of place.

Outside the museum gates stands a large bronze dinosaur, setting the tone for one of the museum's main themes. Why dinosaurs? For one, they've been a huge problem for Young Earth Creationists: how can The Bible's creation story be true if there were giant lizards roaming the earth millions of years before mankind? Historically Creationists have sometimes resorted to thinking of dinosaur fossils as "tests of faith" placed by God Himself, but the Creation Museum revels in its acceptance of the ancient behemoths. They're real, they existed, and everything science has taught us about them is true. Well, except for one tiny little thing: Instead of existing a hundred million years ago, T-Rex and pals co-existed with humans when the earth was made six thousand years ago. Yes, dinosaurs and humans lived together, and the Creation Museum has all the "science" to prove it, including its own interpretation of fossil records.

It's so simple it just might work!

From the very first exhibit, the museum's mission is clear: It knows the real truth, it's joyously unashamed of its beliefs, and it simultaneously welcomes skeptics and comforts believers by presenting a careful counterpoint to every contradicting piece of scientific evidence you could imagine. It does this by picking and choosing the parts of science it agrees with, and filling in the resulting gaping holes in logic with supernatural "just because" reasoning. It's all extremely convincing to its laymen visitors, who already want to believe and have neither the knowledge nor desire to question the faulty research. It's not a coincidence these beliefs appeal largely to uneducated simpletons: Much of the YEC's flawed logic is in line with Kirk Cameron's (hilarious) banana demonstration: Because the scientific reasoning is too convoluted to understand, God must have made it. The easiest way to understand why nature works as efficiently as it does is to just say it was designed that way. Every ounce of it shatters magnificently into pieces under even the gentlest scientific scrutiny, but none of that matters when all logic has been disregarded from step one. There is no way for rationality to win here - it's like trying to prove the sky is blue to someone wearing red-tinted glasses. It's never going to happen, so you might as well just sit back and enjoy sipping on the big fat glass of crazy they've poured for you. And remember: This is not a joke. It's not even a "what if," or a "Bible stories brought to life" type of deal. This is presented as absolute truth, as genuine science, and its hundreds of thousands of followers believe it as fervently as you or I believe in gravity or oxygen or The Force. ...Okay, the last one is just me.

The museum was extremely busy on a weekday afternoon, filled almost exclusively with the stone-washed jeans, tucked-in shirts, and patriotic colors of Wal-Mart brand families, who regarded my friend and me with raised eyebrows and icy stares. They probably thought we were gay, and were afraid they might catch it. They had all come from near and far to show their children the true word of God brought to life like never before, and yes, tots of all ages were prancing excitedly through the exhibits, enthralled with the elaborate set pieces and animatronic creatures. Indeed, one of the first things to see inside the museum walls is an animatronic dinosaur lurking in the bushes amidst man-made structures. A few feet away, a robotic child plays happily, unconcerned about the presence of a vicious reptilian carnivore:

Nooooothing to worry about!

The child is the type of nightmare-inducing hellspawn mutant only someone as creepy as Ken Ham could be pleased with - watch how fucking scary this thing is:

The cohabiting child and dinosaur animatronics are a reminder of the second, far more sinister motivation behind the museum's prominent use of ancient reptiles: kids love dinosaurs. If you have kids, or know kids, or ever were a kid (which seems likely), you know this firsthand. Kids are completely bonkers about dinosaurs, which makes brainwashing them with fundamentalist propaganda that much more difficult when they have to be told dinosaurs never existed. The Creation Museum changes all that, and it uses the fun of dinosaurs as a trojan horse for its dangerous brand of pseudo-science. It's all tailored very carefully to youngsters, and it's incredibly damaging in its presentation of science as a flawed string of fragile theories that can be manipulated as needed to conform to fringe beliefs. When parents indoctrinate their child with these kinds of ideas, and a "science" museum filled with exciting sights and sounds backs it up and answers every lingering question, that child is going to grow up with an extremely warped, frighteningly ignorant perception of the world, and have a very hard time making rational decisions later in life. The museum exists to nourish an unhealthy state of ideological war with the rest of society, and if all of its junior attendees grow up without ever having the opportunity to make their own decisions about religion and faith, then Ken Ham has succeeded marvelously.

No, this didn't make any more sense in the context of the museum.

Anyway, let's follow the museum's journey through the true history of the Universe, as told by The Bible's Old Testament. It all got started when God created the earth in six days. We've all heard that part. He created the land, the seas, all the animals, the birds, the fish, and the dinosaurs, and then, in His own image, He created the first man, Adam. Adam and all of the animals lived in Paradise - but what's any kind of Paradise without naked chicks? So God made Eve out of Adam's rib, and the two of them lived together in the Garden of Eden.

(click to enlarge, in case you hadn't figured that out by now)

They lived in harmony with the animals, including the dinosaurs, because all animals were herbivores in Paradise, and there was no violence, because there was no sin - which also made it perfectly okay for them to be naked all the time. Adam and Eve just hung out all day, naked, eating fruit and playing with their animal friends, and presumably with themselves. They kinda had it made. The only rule was they weren't allowed to eat fruit from this one tree, because, well, they just weren't. It was a bad tree with bad fruit. Seems like a dumb-ass thing to stick in the middle of Paradise, but at least God specifically told Adam to stay the fuck away from the bad fruit tree.

Then one day Satan showed up, in the form of a snake.

I guess security in Paradise was a little lax. Satan liked to hang out in the bad tree and fuck with Adam and Eve, taunting them with his delicious forbidden fruit.

Sure enough, Adam gave in, ate the fruit, and in doing so committed the first sin, thus fucking things up for all the rest of us for all of eternity (THANKS, DOUCHE). God was pissed, kicked Adam and Eve out of Paradise, and God Himself committed the first murder, killing an animal and skinning it to clothe Adam and Eve, because being publicly naked was no longer okay, and that's why Europe has way better beaches than America. The museum illustrates this scene in gruesome detail guaranteed to give children nightmares:


Emphasis mine.

With Paradise gone, everything got shitty. People were mean, they had to work to find food, they had to build shelter. Animals started eating other animals, dinosaurs were now terrible man-eating lizards instead of friendly pets, it rained, people started getting hang nails and paper cuts and diarrhea and bad breath and everything else that sucks about life - all because that cockbag Adam just had to have his fucking fruit.

It seems a tad harsh, punishing all of mankind for one asshole's mistake - but I guess God is like a jealous girlfriend: Her man gives in and tastes that forbidden fruit just once and she'll hold it against him forever. Maybe Dishwalla was onto something.

You know, now that I've been refreshed on the specifics of the whole Garden of Eden thing, I have a few questions I never would have thought of back in Sunday School, for any Creationists who might be reading. I guess I'm just a bit fuzzy on exactly how far the concept of "Paradise" extends:
- Did poop smell different in Paradise?
- Did Adam's balls get itchy in Paradise? Did he ever experience erectile difficulty? Did Eve get her, you know, monthly visitor? None of those things sound like Paradise to me, but The Bible isn't quite clear.
- Before sin entered the world, it was okay to be naked, but was it okay to masturbate? What about butt sex? Creampies? Bukkake? Coprophilia? None of those could be sins if there was no sin yet, right? How about ass-to-mouth? I really just can't see it being called "Paradise" if there's no ass-to-mouth.

Anyway, so humanity carried on for a while post-Paradise, on a steady decline now that it had to deal with murders and famine and herpes. People got so shitty with each other, it seemed, that our feisty Old Testament God wanted a clean slate, so He decided to flood the entire world, killing off everyone except a handful of true believers, led by a guy named Noah. Noah was told by God to build a big fucking boat to survive the flood, which we all know as Noah's Ark. At the Creation Museum, the Ark is presented in historical detail as matter-of-factly as a real museum might present the Apollo 1 or the Enola Gay.

An elaborate life-sized set piece illustrating the Ark's construction is complete with animatronic characters - among them Noah, who apparently wasn't just any Jew, but a cartoon New York Jew (from the future):

The next section of the museum displays models of the completed Ark as Noah loads it with two of each kind of animal in the entire world - including, of course, the dinosaurs:

Dinosaurs, naturally, were still around in Noah's time, and he was able to fit them on the Ark by choosing smaller juvenile dinosaurs. Obviously. But how did he get all these animals from around the world to line up and march calmly, single file, into his Ark? Well, God helped out with that part. Obviously. Creation "science" has a habit of following common sense until it hits a wall, then using divine intervention to explain the rest. How convenient.

So Noah and the animals boarded the Ark, and it rained for forty days and forty nights or whatever, flooding the entire world, leaving all the sinners to drown, but only after getting eaten by tigers, according to this diorama:

When I was looking at this particular display, a mother was standing next to me with her child, no older than two years. She pointed at this gruesome miniature scene and told her impressionable spawn, in a lullaby-soft tone, "Look at all the sinners, they're all dying because they didn't obey God. Look how sad they are! They're all dying! But Noah is okay in the Ark because he accepted God in his heart." Right. Get that toddler primed for a lifetime of God-fearing guilt. That's what a two year old should be thinking about, you fucking twatbag.

The museum spends a lot of time with the flood, because that's the YEC method of explaining more or less everything: fossils, continents, The Grand Canyon, the Ice Age, Mt. Everest, and any other geographic or atmospheric phenomena that would seemingly require thousands or millions of years in order to exist. It's such a perfect explanation for every fossil record ever discovered, that Ken Ham's little butt-pal Buddy Davis wrote a fun song about it - a cheerful little children's tune called "Billions Of Dead Things." Enjoy:

I don't know about you, but I'd find it just a tad morbid to hear my five year old singing songs about all the billions of dead things buried by a flood designed to kill all the sinners. But hey, I am a sinner - and a damned good one at that - so what do I know? Unfortunately, neither the song nor the museum offer any satisfying explain as to why a God who could create an entire planet and populate it with millions of species in less than a week would need such a convoluted plan to get rid of all the sinners.

When the flood was finished, Noah came off the Ark with all his animals, and God told them to "be fruitful and multiply," which meant, of course, that animals should just keep fucking until they rapidly transformed into a wide variety of new species, as illustrated in the diagram below:

You're probably looking at that diagram thinking it looks an awful lot like an animal evolving over millions of years. Um, no. This is a post-flood horse changing over a few thousand years. DUH! It's all explained very clearly in the fine print:

That explains it.

Right. See? Divine intervention. Oh, and what ever happened to dinosaurs? Well, they lived for a while, and then just kind of died out, as recently as four hundred years ago, like any other endangered species. The obvious evidence that dinosaurs were around even after the flood? Dragons! Obviously. Yes, dragon myths around the world were the result of real dinosaurs co-existing with man. They were hunted by King Arthur in Medieval England, and used Flintstones-style in Ancient China:

And there you have it. The real, true, history of the world. And if you don't believe it, well, the museum has a place for you, too. At one point, the Creationist history lesson takes a divisive turn, interrupted with a detour into, literally, "Sin City."

Visitors walk through a dark, eerily-lit alley, wallpapered with magazine articles chronicling the downfall of Christian values at the hands of a modern society that turned its back on God. Sirens wail, trash litters the corners, graffiti covers the walls - it's a fear-mongering, xenophobic red state portrayal of secular, crime-ridden urban wastelands like New York or Los Angeles, meant to embody everything that terrifies America's heartland. Broken windows look into broken secular homes, where screens display all-too-common scenarios of Godless teenagers getting pregnant, drinking, smoking marijuana. Sounds like a hell of a party to me, but apparently it's the work of Satan, and it's all because of the poison of evolutionary science, which is unsubtly illustrated in a laughably melodramatic scene where the giant wrecking ball of "millions of years" is shown smashing into the side of a church:

We'd probably use explosives, if you want to get technical. ..Big Bang?  ...Get it?

This is the Jack Chick brand of divisive, spook-show extremist Christianity that I would have been disappointed to see left out of the museum. After all, what's Christianity without a hearty dose of fear? In the cold concrete halls that follow, spooky sound effects of screams and fire accompany projections displaying the horrors of a sinful world: Drug addiction, abortion, natural disasters, Nazis, disease, poverty. Let me reiterate that Hitler and abortion seem to be treated as equally evil in this display. You can see the fear in the wide eyes of young children as they pass through these halls, their developing brains wiring the foundation for a lifetime at odds with anything perceived to be unChristian - science included.

Like all good museums, this one ends by dumping you into a gift shop. Here you'll find hundreds of t-shirts, books, and DVDs chock full of delusional YEC propaganda. The t-shirts weren't as ironically awesome as I'd hoped (Christians aren't exactly famous for their fashion sense), but naturally, I had to pick up a DVD. I found one designed for kids, a combination of lectures and songs presented by Ken Ham himself, carefully designed to cure your little ones of all rational thought. It's called "Dinosaurs, Genesis, & The Gospel," and it doesn't disappoint. You've already seen a couple clips from this idiotic masterpiece, but here's another collection of highlights for your enjoyment:

As fun as it is to laugh in jaw-dropped amazement at the idiotic ranting of a madman, there's a genuine danger in all of this that shouldn't be discounted: These people are fiercely indoctrinating their children, spawning new generations of fanatics who believe themselves engaged in a culture war with the world at large, and want to discredit science and change our laws to get their way. Being in a culture war with drug use and teen pregnancy is one thing, but when you set your cross hairs on science - that which is the foundation of every aspect of our modern lives, and the key to advancing our civilization and preserving our planet - suddenly religious tolerance has reached its limit. As rational people we must not be afraid to call these fanatics crazy - to trivialize them and dump them in the rubbish bin of culture alongside other dangerously deranged fringe groups. Young Earth Creationism, or even Intelligent Design, deserve not to be engaged in debate, not to be heard in government, but rather a spot in society's looney bin alongside Scientology, the Klu Klux Klan, NAMBLA, neocons, Juggalos, moon landing hoax conspiracy theorists, adult babies, and the RIAA. But don't think for one second I'm advocating the removal of a museum like this. Religious freedom is an important right, and as you can tell, I love indulging in some good ol' fashioned nutty religious pageantry - I just want to make sure that we, as a society, never ever allow this to gain any acceptance as a valid alternative to hard-won science.

On the way out of the museum, you can get your picture taken in front of a green screen, and purchase a souvenir photo of yourself inserted into one of several scenes from The Bible world history. Naturally, my friend and I chose the dinosaur scene. Here we are, reenacting the daily struggles of our ancestors:

For as wordy of an article as this is, it's all kind of summed up right there, isn't it?

*AUTHOR'S NOTE: Since this article was published, it has been brought to my attention in the very lively comments section that, as recently as 2004, 60 percent of Americans take the Bible's account of creation as literal truth. Not 60 percent of Christians - 60 percent of Americans. I now remember hearing this statistic at the time - apparently it caused enough mental trauma to warrant repression. I tried to give people of faith the benefit of the doubt in my assumption that most Christians subscribed to a brand of Creationism which adheres at least slightly to reality. This, it seems, was a drastic mistake. In reviewing this article, please disregard all references to Young Earth Creationism as "fringe," and emphasize all references to "bat-shit crazy."

Digg it, bitches!

If you liked this article, you might also like:
- Please Stop Making Fun of Scientology. No, Really.
- Don't Get Too Excited, Part Two: We're Still a Nation of Bigots
- Can We Please, as a Culture, Just Move On?
- Demonbaby's Election Day Hideous Patriotic T-Shirt Extravaganza!
- When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, The Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide

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Thursday, January 17, 2008subscribe to demonbaby

Please Stop Making Fun Of Scientology. No, really.

[Currently Listening To: David Bowie - Low]

"No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States" - Article 6 of the United States Constitution

I realize I'm way behind with the final installments of the Demonbaby Awards, but I had to break for a moment to get something off my chest. You see, there's a funny little video going around the internets today. You might have seen it. It features Tom Cruise, the notoriously wacky Scientology overlord, waxing schizophrenic about... well, I'm not even sure what about. The clip is apparently from a Scientology indoctrination video, and the "Church" of Scientology has been furiously ordering removals of it from YouTube due to "copyright violations," and threatening to sue Gawker for hosting it. Here's the video, in case you haven't seen it:

It's wonderfully, utterly batshit insane. He's a fucking lunatic, and he's selling a dangerous scam masquerading as a cult masquerading as a religion. And since they're trying so very hard to keep it out of your tubes, I urge everyone to take a few moments to download the Quicktime version here or here or here or here and upload it to YouTube as many times as you can.

Anyway, the thing about Scientology is that outside of its brainwashed devotees, everyone knows it's crazy, and everyone makes fun of it. Its looney sci-fi overtones make for a delightfully easy target, and the tyranny with which its guardians protect it makes it an even more appealing punching bag. But here's my problem: Relatively speaking, Scientology isn't that crazy. No, really. It isn't. You see, here in the good ol' United States, more than half of our citizens (depending on which poll you look at) happily ignore centuries of overwhelming and exhaustively-researched scientific evidence suggesting human beings have evolved into their present form over millions of years, and instead choose to believe that we were plunked down on the earth fully-formed by a mythical being in the sky, because an old book of parables written by primitive people says so. Americans also believe overwhelmingly in miracles, heaven, hell, and that Jesus is God or the son of God. They like to think they believe all this because of some righteous faith in their soul that sin-laden secular heathens like myself could never understand. In reality, it's because as children they were indoctrinated into believing that The Bible is a book of absolute truths, and The Bible says that God created man in His image, and they'd no sooner want to believe they've been wrong their whole life than I'd want to believe that maybe Saved By The Bell was never actually funny at all, and I was just a twelve year old with bad taste. Come on, Screech had some great one-liners... right?

When I was about four years old, I loved stickers. I loved stickers so much that I stuck them everywhere. Every fucking where. It drove my family crazy. They told me I was no longer allowed to put stickers on walls or furniture or my toys, or I'd be in trouble. So fuck it, I thought, I'll put stickers on myself, and one day I stuck them all over my body. I even stuck one on the end of my tiny little four year old ding-ding, covering up that important hole that pee comes out of. I thought it was funny, and to a four year old, who doesn't even really know what a penis is, having a sticker on the end of it is pretty fucking funny. That is, until I had to pee, and it dawned on me that I'd clogged up the pipes, so to speak, and trying to remove the sticker was painful beyond imagination. At that terrifying moment of realization, the young mind produces one and only one result: Bawling. Loud, desperate, tear-streaked bawling. I had to tell my Mother about the horrible mistake I'd made, and she and my Grandmother had to soak me in warm water to loosen up the glue on the sticker so it could be painlessly removed. Why, you ask, am I telling you this, short of my masochistic desire to frequently embarrass myself on the internet? The point here, really, is to illustrate how fucking dumb I was when I was four years old. How dumb we all were. How we were little sponges, eager to learn, looking to the guidance of our parents and our teachers to tell us how the world worked. And at the same tender age that I covered my pee hole with a sticker, I began attending Sunday school at my local Catholic church. At Sunday school my spongy, impressionable brain was told over and over again that God created the earth, and He created Adam and Eve, and He created me, and He loved me, and Jesus loved me, and all I had to do was love Him back and be a good person and I'd get into Heaven. What a wonderful thing to believe as a child. There's a big bearded guy in the sky watching over me, and He loves me no matter what, and He'll help me through thick and thin, and when my goldfish died he went to a magical place in the sky with the rest of his goldfish family and swam in God's big beautiful goldfish bowl, and someday when I died I'd be there too, and it'd be even better than my life on earth. I bet there are tons of stickers in Heaven, and you can put them anywhere! WOW!

Why wouldn't I believe all that? It sounds great, and hell, I also believed that a magical fairy covertly paid me for my baby teeth, and that a giant bunny rabbit got off on hiding eggs all over my house to celebrate the resurrection of the son of God. Besides, adults were telling me all this stuff, and adults knew lots of things I didn't, like why you shouldn't put stickers over your pee hole. But I guess indoctrination is a delicate process, because somewhere along the way, it was too much for me. Later in life it pushed a little too hard, and I stopped buying into it. I think it was when I stopped going to Sunday school and started attending regular mass, and Catholicism revealed itself as being more about guilt than love, and church was the most boring fucking thing I could have ever imagined. I started asking questions my Mother couldn't answer. I started drawing mean caricatures of our priests on the collection slips and leaving them in the Bibles for people to find. I started to call bullshit on the whole ordeal, and my poor Mother, her own faith having grown fragile over the years, could no longer defend it. And that was that. I got out. Most people in that situation aren't so lucky, and hence, America is overwhelmingly populated by people who believe in Santa Claus. He may be skinny and shirtless and pinned to a cross, but he's still Santa Claus.

If I have children and, as their sole voice of guidance in their crucial formative years, tell them that Tommy Lee was an earthly vessel of the almighty Creator, and His autobiography Tommyland contained the universal truths for all mankind and the keys to salvation, and anyone who felt otherwise was simply a misguided soul destined for eternal damnation lest they be awaked to the sacred truths of Tommy Lee... Well, I'd end up with a pretty fucked up kid, but by the time he'd reached adulthood with these superstitions drilled into his brain day after day, you'd have a damned hard time convincing him his beliefs were wrong.

The problem here is that because Christianity is old and widely-believed, we're meant to inherently accept its fairy tales as somehow more credible than Scientology's fairy tales, when really, they're the same fucking thing. So why is it okay to make fun of Scientology in a country that takes Christianity so seriously? Why is it common knowledge that Scientology is a cult that scams people out of money and uses devious tactics to lure people into its teachings, but no one wants to admit the same things about Christian churches? Why is Tom Cruise a lunatic for saying whatever the hell he said in that video, but we'll gladly elect a President who thinks the earth was made in seven days? Why is poor Dennis Kucinich lampooned for saying he saw a UFO, but we're perfectly comfortable with all the other Presidential candidates worshipping an omnipotent being? If you get right down to it, UFOs have far more scientific basis than omnipotent beings.

I wish religion was, like anal beads and Everybody Loves Raymond, something that people practiced privately, in their homes, and it was an individual matter that rarely intruded on my life. Because theoretically, I really don't care what you believe in. I don't give two shits if you worship Jesus or Allah or Brett Favre or The Force or little fucking forest gnomes. In theory, it makes no difference to me whether your idea of a religious experience is saying ten Hail Marys, or nailing your balls to a wooden plank while defacating. It should be no concern of mine. But these fucking fundamentalist Christians have unfortunately made it my business and everyone's business, and because of their insistence on meddling with science and politics, I now have to try and figure out who's the least superstitious Presidential candidate. I wish it would never even occur to me that the prospective leader of the free world might, in the 21st century, reject a basic foundation of science. But alas, this is the dumb, credulous kindergarten class known as America, where, much to the snickering bemusement of Europe and the rest of the developed world, our political leaders have to show up on TV kneeling in front of a cross at Sunday mass to even be considered a candidate for Commander in Chief. And that, sadly, makes religion an important issue - because religion has begun threatening science, and if we start tearing away at science, we risk losing what little sense of reason and logic our country still has left to hold onto.

In case you hadn't noticed, we're in the early stages of an insulting sham of a Presidential election process right now. But as flawed as the system might be, it's still going to result in a new leader of our fragile empire, and no matter who you vote for, on either side of the political fence, you're voting for someone reared on a theology no less absurd than anything Tom Cruise believes in. In this election there are arguably more important issues - like trying to undo eight years of imperialistic insanity and fiscal irresponsibility. But I think a person's ability to weigh out religious beliefs against scientific facts says a lot about their character and informs all their decisions - and since every Presidential hopeful has to have a cross up their ass, I like to at least know which of them are drinking more of the Kool-Aid than others. This time around the thirstiest seems to be Mike Huckabee, a Republican front runner and former Baptist minister. Aside from crediting divine intervention with some of his political success, he has vocally supported creationism and thinks it should be taught in science class alongside evolution. He also carries the proud right wing tradition of using religion as an excuse for close-minded bigotry, calling homosexuality "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle." And naturally, he's anti-abortion, anti-stem cells, anti-gay marriage/civil unions - all the ignorant, Bible-inspired goodness you've come to expect from the Christian right. Most recently Huckabee has said that "what we need to do is amend the constitution so it's in God's standards rather than trying to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other..." So, um, by "God," do you mean the Islamic concept of God, Mike? That one? Oh, oh, I'm sorry, you meant the Christian God. The, um, the good one, right? Sorry, my bad.

Surprisingly, the only other major candidate to actually say outright that he doesn't accept evolution is - *gasp* - the beloved Ron Paul. Here is the awkward clip where Paul, a devout Baptist, sent shivers down the spines of his many left-leaning, secular supporters by saying "I think it's a theory, the theory of evolution and I don't accept it as a theory." Ooooh, snap! How's the "theory" of gravity working out for you, Dr. Paul? He also said he didn't think it was an appropriate question to be asking Presidential candidates. Well, it certainly the fuck shouldn't have to be asked, any more than "what's two plus two?" But when we live in a country where so many people actually reject a basic foundation of science, and want to indoctrinate future generations with that kind of thinking, it's a staggeringly appropriate question. Of course, Paul's devotees would probably retort with something to the effect of "Ron Paul would let the states decide how to handle discussion of evolution in their schools, so it doesn't matter what he thinks." Except that going to school is mandatory, and public schools are provided by the state, so incorporating intelligent design into a public school curriculum equates to incorporating religious teachings, and that violates the long-standing restraining order filed by State against its creepy stalker, Church. It's okay though, if President Paul lets the states make that call, I'll just move back to New York and help build a wall to protect us when the next generation of public schooled kids from Arkansas comes around trying to burn down the secular den of sin that is Manhattan.

The rest of the candidates - all of the Democrats and a few of the Republicans (McCain, Giuliani, and Romney), appear to be, whether they even know it or not, "theistic evolutionists." This means they believe in evolution, but also believe in God, so they inherently believe that God had some involvement in the process of evolution. Their varying thoughts on intelligent design in public schools are outlined here. Certainly this is far from the only thing, or even the first thing, you should consider when deciding which candidate to support, but it's something that isn't being talked about much right now, and it shouldn't be forgotten. Fringe Democratic candidate Mike Gravel is the only candidate with the balls to say something truly awesome about the intelligent design issue, and sadly his candor is one of the many reasons why he'll never be President: When asked if creationism should be taught in public schools, he said "Oh, God, no. Oh, Jesus. We thought we had made a big advance with the Scopes monkey trial... My God, evolution is a fact, and if these people are disturbed by being the descendants of monkeys and fishes, they've got a mental problem. We can't afford the psychiatric bill for them. That ends the story as far as I'm concerned." Couldn't have said it better myself, Mike.

The other reason all this is important is because Presidents nominate Supreme Court judges, and it was a Supreme Court judge who famously kept intelligent design out of public schools - at least for now. A President who can't accept fundamental science over his own superstitions, or at least adapt his beliefs to things we know to be true, is not someone who should be picking Supreme Court judges. We've made that mistake, and I think we'd be wise not to make it again. To quote Bill Maher: "Maybe a President who didn't believe our soldiers were going to Heaven might be a little less willing to get them killed."

Last week on his HBO show, Bill Maher responded to the controversy over Hilary Clinton "crying" by asking, somewhat rhetorically, "are we a serious country?" No, Bill, of course we're not. We're a silly, lazy, simple-minded, easily-manipulated country, ready to believe anyone who tells us what we want to hear and any ideology that presents the easiest path from point A to point B. No wonder Kirk Cameron believes bananas are proof that God created the earth. No wonder a douchelord televangelist like Joel Osteen can become so massively successful by telling his millions of believers to just kick back, relax, turn on Everybody Loves Raymond, and let God take care of things. Yup, just believe in God, and everything will be fine. Wow, life is that easy? Sign me up!

Personally, I don't believe in UFOs like Mr. Kucinich, and I don't believe in God like Dr. Paul. But I don't not believe in them either. I believe in science, and thus far, science can neither prove nor disprove either one of those things, so my mind is open. Of course, at this point science has rather drastically disproven the history of mankind as written in the Bible, and that's where things have gotten a bit awkward. With the vastness of the universe and the complexity of life, I suppose believing in some kind of higher power is in our nature. We're too aware for our own good, and we can't stand the horrible, empty feeling that comes with not knowing why we're here, how we got here, or where we're going. It's discomforting to think that we'll never be able to understand all the secrets of the universe. So we make up stories that take care of those concerns very neatly. These stories answer all your questions, they appease all your worries. All you have to do is believe, and the best part is that if you don't like something about the stories you've been told, you can write your own book of slightly different stories and tell other people that your stories are the right ones. You have the truth now. And if that helps you sleep at night, then I'm happy for you, and please, carry on, but don't try to pretend that you have an answer I don't. No one has the answer, and in that sense, Scientology is as real or as unreal as Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam, or Tommy Leeology, or hell, even science. But at least what science offers that religion doesn't is the ability to question, and reason, and re-evaluate, and allow its ideas to, well, evolve based on new information. If factual evidence shows up tomorrow suggesting that our species actually evolved from the fecal matter of giant space turtles, then science will evolve with those new facts, and rewrite the rules based on new evidence. That's the reason the earth is no longer flat, and it's something an unwavering belief in a book of stories can never offer. So please, if you're going to laugh at Scientology and call Tom Cruise a brainwashed lunatic, be sure to play fair and save some venom for all the other religions and their brainwashed lunatics. And, well, I'll just let XKCD conclude this rant more efficiently than I ever could:

Edit: Oh, shit. I wrote all that before seeing Kirk Cameron's definitive proof that evolution isn't real. Fuck! Everything I stood for, debunked so effortlessly, and with such perfect teeth! Well, back to the ol' drawing board...

Digg it, bitches!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007subscribe to demonbaby

When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide.

[Currently Listening To: Music I Didn't Pay For]

For quite a long time I've been intending to post some sort of commentary on the music industry - piracy, distribution, morality, those types of things. I've thought about it many times, but never gone through with it, because the issue is such a broad, messy one - such a difficult thing to address fairly and compactly. I knew it would result in a rambly, unfocused commentary, and my exact opinion has teetered back and forth quite a bit over the years anyway. But on Monday, when I woke up to the news that Oink, the world famous torrent site and mecca for music-lovers everywhere, had been shut down by international police and various anti-piracy groups, I knew it was finally time to try and organize my thoughts on this huge, sticky, important issue.

For the past eight years, I've worked on and off with major record labels as a designer ("Major" is an important distinction here, because major labels are an entirely different beast than many indie labels - they're the ones with the power, and they are the ones driving the industry-wide push against piracy). It was 1999 when I got my first taste of the inner-workings of a major record label - I was a young college student, and the inside of a New York label office seemed so vast and exciting. Dozens of worker bees hummed away at their desks on phones and computers. Music posters and stacks of CDs littered every surface. Everyone seemed to have an assistant, and the assistants had assistants, and you couldn't help but wonder "what the hell do all these people do?" I tagged along on $1500 artist dinners paid for by the labels. Massive bar tabs were regularly signed away by record label employees with company cards. You got used to people billing as many expenses back to the record company as they could. I met the type of jive, middle-aged, blazer-wearing, coke-snorting, cartoon character label bigwigs who you'd think were too cliche to exist outside the confines of Spinal Tap. It was all strange and exciting, but one thing that always resonated with me was the sheer volume of money that seemed to be spent without any great deal of concern. Whether it was excessive production budgets or "business lunches" that had nothing to do with business, one of my first reactions to it all was, "so this is why CDs cost $18..." An industry of excess. But that's kind of what you expected from the music business, right? It's where rock stars are made. It's where you get stretch limos with hot tubs in the back, where you get private jets and cocaine parties. Growing up in the '80's, with pop royalty and hair metal bands, you were kind of led to think, of course record labels blow money left and right - there's just so much of it to go around! Well, you know what they say: The bigger they are...

In those days, "piracy" was barely even a word in the music world. My friends and I traded MP3s in college over the local network, but they were scattered and low-quality. It felt like a novelty - like a digital version of duping a cassette tape - hardly a replacement for CDs. CDs sounded good and you could bring them with you in your DiscMan, and the only digital music you could get was as good as your friends' CD collections, anyway. It never occurred to any of us that digital files were the future. But as it turned out, lots of kids, in lots of colleges around the world, had the same idea of sharing MP3 files over their local networks, and eventually, someone paid attention to that idea and made Napster. Suddenly, it was like all those college networks were tied together, and you could find all this cool stuff online. It was easier and more efficient than record stores, it was powered by music fans, and, well, it was free. Suddenly you didn't have to pay 15 to 18 bucks for an album and hope it was good, you could download some tracks off the internet and check it out first. But you still always bought the CD if you liked it - I mean, who wants all their music to be on the computer? I sure didn't. But increasingly, more and more people did. For college kids, Napster was a Godsend, because you can all but guarantee two things about most college kids: They love music, and they're dirt poor. So it grew, and it grew, and it started to grow into the mainstream, and that's when the labels woke up and realized something important was happening. At that point they could have seen it as either a threat or an opportunity, and they, without hesitation, determined it to be a threat. It was a threat because essentially someone had come up with a better, free distribution method for the labels' product. To be fair, you can imagine how confusing this must have been for them - is there even a historical precedent for an industry's products suddenly being able to replicate and distribute on their own, without cost?

For quite a while - long after most tech-savvy music lovers - I resisted the idea of stealing music. Of course I would download MP3s - I downloaded a lot of stuff - but I would always make sure to buy the physical CD if it was something I liked. I knew a lot of musicians, a lot of them bewildered at what was happening to the industry they used to understand. People were downloading their music en masse, gorging on this new frontier like pigs at a troff - and worst of all, they felt entitled to do so. It was like it was okay simply because the technology existed that made it possible. But it wasn't okay - I mean, let's face it, no matter how you rationalized it, it was stealing, and because the technology existed to hotwire a car didn't make that okay, either. The artists lost control of distribution: They couldn't present albums the way they wanted to, in a package with nice artwork. They couldn't reveal it the way they wanted to, because music pirates got the albums online well before the actual release date. Control had been taken away from everyone who used to have it. It was a scary time in unfamiliar territory, where suddenly music fans became enemies to the artists and companies they had supported for years. It led to laughable hyperbole from bands like Metallica, instantly the poster-children of cry-baby rich rock stars, and the beginning of the image problem the industry has faced in its handling of the piracy issue. But still, at the time, I understood where they were coming from. Most musicians weren't rich like Metallica, and needed all the album sales they could get for both income and label support. Plus, it was their art, and they had created it - why shouldn't they be able to control how it's distributed, just because some snotty, acne-faced internet kids had found a way to cheat the system? And these entitled little internet brats, don't they realize that albums cost money to create, and to produce, and to promote? How is there going to be any new music if no one's paying for it?

On top of that, I couldn't get into the idea of an invisible music library that lives on my computer. Where's the artwork? Where's my collection? I want the booklet, the packaging... I want shelves and shelves of albums that I've spent years collecting, that I can pore over and impress my friends with... I want to flip through the pages, and hold the CD in my hand... Being a kid who got into music well past the days of vinyl, CDs were all I had, and they still felt important to me.

It's all changed.

In a few short years, the aggressive push of technology combined with the arrogant response from the record industry has rapidly worn away all of my noble intentions of clinging to the old system, and has now pushed me into full-on dissent. I find myself fully immersed in digital music, almost never buying CDs, and fully against the methods of the major record labels and the RIAA. And I think it would do the music industry a lot of good to pay attention to why - because I'm just one of millions, and there will be millions more in the years to come. And it could have happened very, very differently.

As the years have passed, and technology has made digital files the most convenient, efficient, and attractive method of listening to music for many people, the rules and cultural perceptions regarding music have changed drastically. We live in the iPod generation - where a "collection" of clunky CDs feels archaic - where the uniqueness of your music collection is limited only by how eclectic your taste is. Where it's embraced and expected that if you like an album, you send it to your friend to listen to. Whether this guy likes it or not, iPods have become synonymous with music - and if I filled my shiny new 160gb iPod up legally, buying each track online at the 99 cents price that the industry has determined, it would cost me about $32,226. How does that make sense? It's the ugly truth the record industry wants to ignore as they struggle to find ways to get people to pay for music in a culture that has already embraced the idea of music being something you collect in large volumes, and trade freely with your friends.

Already is the key word, because it didn't have to be this way, and that's become the main source of my utter lack of sympathy for the dying record industry: They had a chance to move forward, to evolve with technology and address the changing needs of consumers - and they didn't. Instead, they panicked - they showed their hand as power-hungry dinosaurs, and they started to demonize their own customers, the people whose love of music had given them massive profits for decades. They used their unfair record contracts - the ones that allowed them to own all the music - and went after children, grandparents, single moms, even deceased great grandmothers - alongside many other common people who did nothing more than download some songs and leave them in a shared folder - something that has become the cultural norm to the iPod generation. Joining together in what has been referred to as an illegal cartel and using the RIAA as their attack dogs, the record labels have spent billions of dollars attempting to scare people away from downloading music. And it's simply not working. The pirating community continues to out-smart and out-innovate the dated methods of the record companies, and CD sales continue to plummet while exchange of digital music on the internet continues to skyrocket. Why? Because freely-available music in large quantities is the new cultural norm, and the industry has given consumers no fair alternative. They didn't jump in when the new technologies were emerging and think, "how can we capitalize on this to ensure that we're able to stay afloat while providing the customer what they've come to expect?" They didn't band together and create a flat monthly fee for downloading all the music you want. They didn't respond by drastically lowering the prices of CDs (which have been ludicrously overpriced since day one, and actually increased in price during the '90's), or by offering low-cost DRM-free legal MP3 purchases. Their entry into the digital marketplace was too little too late - a precedent of free, high-quality, DRM-free music had already been set.

There seem to be a lot of reasons why the record companies blew it. One is that they're really not very smart. They know how to do one thing, which is sell records in a traditional retail environment. From personal experience I can tell you that the big labels are beyond clueless in the digital world - their ideas are out-dated, their methods make no sense, and every decision is hampered by miles and miles of legal tape, copyright restrictions, and corporate interests. Trying to innovate with a major label is like trying to teach your Grandmother how to play Halo 3: frustrating and ultimately futile. The easiest example of this is how much of a fight it's been to get record companies to sell MP3s DRM-free. You're trying to explain a new technology to an old guy who made his fortune in the hair metal days. You're trying to tell him that when someone buys a CD, it has no DRM - people can encode it into their computer as DRM-free MP3s within seconds, and send it to all their friends. So why insult the consumer by making them pay the same price for copy-protected MP3s? It doesn't make any sense! It just frustrates people and drives them to piracy! They don't get it: "It's an MP3, you have to protect it or they'll copy it." But they can do the same thing with the CDs you already sell!! Legal tape and lots of corporate bullshit. If these people weren't the ones who owned the music, it'd all be over already, and we'd be enjoying the real future of music. Because like with any new industry, it's not the people from the previous generation who are going to step in and be the innovators. It's a new batch.

Newspapers are a good example: It used to be that people read newspapers to get the news. That was the distribution method, and newspaper companies controlled it. You paid for a newspaper, and you got your news, that's how it worked. Until the internet came along, and a new generation of innovative people created websites, and suddenly anyone could distribute information, and they could distribute it faster, better, more efficiently, and for free. Obviously this hurt the newspaper industry, but there was nothing they could do about it, because they didn't own the information itself - only the distribution method. Their only choice was to innovate and find ways to compete in a new marketplace. And you know what? Now I can get live, up-to-the-minute news for free, on thousands of different sources across the internet - and The New York Times still exists. Free market capitalism at its finest. It's not a perfect example, but it is a part of how the internet is changing every form of traditional media. It happened with newspapers, it's happening now with music, and TV and cell phones are next on the chopping block. In all cases technology demands that change will happen, it's just a matter of who will find ways to take advantage of it, and who won't.

Unlike newspapers, record companies own the distribution and the product being distributed, so you can't just start your own website where you give out music that they own - and that's what this is all about: distribution. Lots of pro-piracy types argue that music can be free because people will always love music, and they'll pay for concert tickets, and merchandise, and the marketplace will shift and artists will survive. Well, yes, that might be an option for some artists, but that does nothing to help the record labels, because they don't make any money off of merchandise, or concert tickets. Distribution and ownership are what they control, and those are the two things piracy threatens. The few major labels left are parts of giant media conglomerations - owned by huge parent companies for whom artists and albums are just numbers on a piece of paper. It's why record companies shove disposable pop crap down your throat instead of nurturing career artists: because they have CEOs and shareholders to answer to, and those people don't give a shit if a really great band has the potential to get really successful, if given the right support over the next decade. They see that Gwen Stefani's latest musical turd sold millions, because parents of twelve year old girls still buy music for their kids, and the parent company demands more easy-money pop garbage that will be forgotten about next month. The only thing that matters to these corporations is profit - period. Music isn't thought of as an art form, as it was in the earlier days of the industry where labels were started by music-lovers - it's a product, pure and simple. And many of these corporations also own the manufacturing plants that create the CDs, so they make money on all sides - and lose money even from legal MP3s.

At the top of all this is the rigged, outdated, and unfair structure of current intellectual property laws, all of them in need of massive reform in the wake of the digital era. These laws allow the labels to maintain their stranglehold on music copyrights, and they allow the RIAA to sue the pants off of any file-sharing grandmother they please. Since the labels are owned by giant corporations with a great deal of money, power, and political influence, the RIAA is able to lobby politicians and government agencies to manipulate copyright laws for their benefit. The result is absurdly disproportionate fines, and laws that in some cases make file sharing a heftier charge than armed robbery. This is yet another case of private, corporate interests using political influence to turn laws in the opposite direction of the changing values of the people. Or, as this very smart assessment from a record executive described it: "a clear case of a multinational conglomerate using its political muscle to the disadvantage of everyone but itself." But shady political maneuvers and scare tactics are all the RIAA and other anti-piracy groups have left, because people who download music illegally now number in the hundreds of millions, and they can't sue everyone. At this point they're just trying to hold up what's left of the dam before it bursts open. Their latest victim is Oink, a popular torrent site specializing in music.

If you're not familiar with Oink, here's a quick summary: Oink was was a free members-only site - to join it you had to be invited by a member. Members had access to an unprecedented community-driven database of music. Every album you could ever imagine was just one click away. Oink's extremely strict quality standards ensured that everything on the site was at pristine quality - 192kbps MP3 was their bare minimum, and they championed much higher quality MP3s as well as FLAC lossless downloads. They encouraged logs to verify that the music had been ripped from the CD without any errors. Transcodes - files encoded from other encoded files, resulting in lower quality - were strictly forbidden. You were always guaranteed higher quality music than iTunes or any other legal MP3 store. Oink's strict download/share ratio ensured that every album in their vast database was always well-seeded, resulting in downloads faster than anywhere else on the internet. A 100mb album would download in mere seconds on even an average broadband connection. Oink was known for getting pre-release albums before anyone else on the internet, often months before they hit retail - but they also had an extensive catalogue of music dating back decades, fueled by music lovers who took pride in uploading rare gems from their collection that other users were seeking out. If there was an album you couldn't find on Oink, you only had to post a request for it, and wait for someone who had it to fill your request. Even if the request was extremely rare, Oink's vast network of hundreds of thousands of music-lovers eager to contribute to the site usually ensured you wouldn't have to wait long.

In this sense, Oink was not only an absolute paradise for music fans, but it was unquestionably the most complete and most efficient music distribution model the world has ever known. I say that safely without exaggeration. It was like the world's largest music store, whose vastly superior selection and distribution was entirely stocked, supplied, organized, and expanded upon by its own consumers. If the music industry had found a way to capitalize on the power, devotion, and innovation of its own fans the way Oink did, it would be thriving right now instead of withering. If intellectual property laws didn't make Oink illegal, the site's creator would be the new Steve Jobs right now. He would have revolutionized music distribution. Instead, he's a criminal, simply for finding the best way to fill rising consumer demand. I would have gladly paid a large monthly fee for a legal service as good as Oink - but none existed, because the music industry could never set aside their own greed and corporate bullshit to make it happen.

Here's an interesting aside: The RIAA loves to complain about music pirates leaking albums onto the internet before they're released in stores - painting the leakers as vicious pirates dead set on attacking their enemy, the music industry. But you know where music leaks from? From the fucking source, of course - the labels! At this point, most bands know that once their finished album is sent off to the label, the risk of it turning up online begins, because the labels are full of low-level workers who happen to be music fans who can't wait to share the band's new album with their friends. If the album manages to not leak directly from the label, it is guaranteed to leak once it heads off to manufacturing. Someone at the manufacturing plant is always happy to sneak off with a copy, and before long, it turns up online. Why? Because people love music, and they can't wait to hear their favorite band's new album! It's not about profit, and it's not about maliciousness. So record industry, maybe if you could protect your own assets a little better, shit wouldn't leak - don't blame the fans who flock to the leaked material online, blame the people who leak it out of your manufacturing plants in the first place! But assuming that's a hole too difficult to plug, it begs the question, "why don't labels adapt to the changing nature of distribution by selling new albums online as soon as they're finished, before they have a chance to leak, and release the physical CDs a couple months later?" Well, for one, labels are still obsessed with Billboard chart numbers - they're obsessed with determining the market value of their product by how well it fares in its opening week. Selling it online before the big retail debut, before they've had months to properly market the product to ensure success, would mess up those numbers (nevermind that those numbers mean absolutely nothing anymore). Additionally, selling an album online before it hits stores makes retail outlets (who are also suffering in all this) angry, and retail outlets have far more power than they should. For example, if a record company releases an album online but Wal-Mart won't have the CD in their stores for another two months (because it needs to be manufactured), Wal-Mart gets mad. Who cares if Wal-Mart gets mad, you ask? Well, record companies do, because Wal-Mart is, both mysteriously and tragically, the largest music retailer in the world. That means they have power, and they can say "if you sell Britney Spears' album online before we can sell it in our stores, we lose money. So if you do that, we're not going to stock her album at all, and then you'll lose a LOT of money." That kind of greedy business bullshit happens all the time in the record industry, and the consistent result is a worse experience for consumers and music lovers.

Which is why Oink was so great - take away all the rules and legal ties, all the ownership and profit margins, and naturally, the result is something purely for, by, and in service of the music fan. And it actually helps musicians - file-sharing is "the greatest marketing tool ever to come along for the music industry." One of Oink's best features was how it allowed users to connect similar artists, and to see what people who liked a certain band also liked. Similar to Amazon's recommendation system, it was possible to spend hours discovering new bands on Oink, and that's what many of its users did. Through sites like Oink, the amount and variety of music I listen to has skyrocketed, opening me up to hundreds of artists I never would have experienced otherwise. I'm now fans of their music, and I may not have bought their CDs, but I would have never bought their CD anyway, because I would have never heard of them! And now that I have heard of them, I go to their concerts, and I talk them up to my friends, and give my friends the music to listen to for themselves, so they can go to the concerts, and tell their friends, and so on. Oink was a network of music lovers sharing and discovering music. And yes, it was all technically illegal, and destined to get shut down, I suppose. But it's not so much that they shut Oink down that boils my blood, it's the fucking bullshit propaganda they put out there. If the industry tried to have some kind of compassion - if they said, "we understand that these are just music fans trying to listen to as much music as they can, but we have to protect our assets, and we're working on an industry-wide solution to accommodate the changing needs of music fans"... Well, it's too late for that, but it would be encouraging. Instead, they make it sound like they busted a Columbian drug cartel or something. They describe it as a highly-organized piracy ring. Like Oink users were distributing kiddie porn or some shit. The press release says: "This was not a case of friends sharing music for pleasure." Wh - what?? That's EXACTLY what it was! No one made any money on that site - there were no ads, no registration fees. The only currency was ratio - the amount you shared with other users - a brilliant way of turning "free" into a sort of booming mini-economy. The anti-piracy groups have tried to spin the notion that you had to pay a fee to join Oink, which is NOT true - donations were voluntary, and went to support the hosting and maintenance of the site. If the donations spilled into profit for the guy who ran the site, well he damn well deserved it - he created something truly remarkable.

So the next question is, what now?

For the major labels, it's over. It's fucking over. You're going to burn to the fucking ground, and we're all going to dance around the fire. And it's your own fault. Surely, somewhere deep inside, you had to know this day was coming, right? Your very industry is founded on an unfair business model of owning art you didn't create in exchange for the services you provide. It's rigged so that you win every time - even if the artist does well, you do ten times better. It was able to exist because you controlled the distribution, but now that's back in the hands of the people, and you let the ball drop when you could have evolved.

None of this is to say that there's no way for artists to make money anymore, or even that it's the end of record labels. It's just the end of record labels as we know them. A lot of people point to the Radiohead model as the future, but Radiohead is only dipping its toe into the future to test the waters. What at first seemed like a rainbow-colored revolution has now been openly revealed as a marketing gimmick: Radiohead was "experimenting," releasing a low-quality MP3 version of an album only to punish the fans who paid for it by later releasing a full-quality CD version with extra tracks. According to Radiohead's manager: "If we didn't believe that when people hear the music they will want to buy the CD then we wouldn't do what we are doing." Ouch. Radiohead was moving in the right direction, but if they really want to start a revolution, they need to place the "pay-what-you-want" digital album on the same content and quality level as the "pay-what-we-want" physical album.

Ultimately, I don't know what the future model is going to be - I think all the current pieces of the puzzle will still be there, but they need to be re-ordered, and the rules need to be changed. Maybe record labels of the future exist to help front recording costs and promote artists, but they don't own the music. Maybe music is free, and musicians make their money from touring and merchandise, and if they need a label, the label takes a percentage of their tour and merch profits. Maybe all-digital record companies give bands all the tools they need to sell their music directly to their fans, taking a small percentage for their services. In any case, the artists own their own music.

I used to reject the wishy-washy "music should be free!" mantra of online music thieves. I knew too much about the intricacies and economics of it, of the rock-and-a-hard-place situation many artists were in with their labels. I thought there were plenty of new ways to sell music that would be fair to all parties involved. But I no longer believe that, because the squabbling, backwards, greedy, ownership-obsessed major labels will never let it happen, and that's more clear to me now than ever. So maybe music has to be free. Maybe taking the money out of music is the only way to get money back into it. Maybe it's time to abandon the notion of the rock star - of music as a route to fame and fortune. The best music was always made by people who weren't in it for the money, anyway. Maybe smart, talented musicians will find ways to make a good living with or without CD sales. Maybe the record industry execs who made their fortunes off of unfair contracts and distribution monopolies should just walk away, confident that they milked a limited opportunity for all it was worth, and that it's time to find fortune somewhere else. Maybe in the hands of consumers, the music marketplace will expand in new and lucrative ways no one can even dream of yet. We won't know until music is free, and eventually it's going to be. Technological innovation destroys old industries, but it creates new ones. You can't fight it forever.

Until the walls finally come down, we're in what will inevitably be looked back on as a very awkward, chaotic period in music history - fans are being arrested for sharing the music they love, and many artists are left helpless, unable to experiment with new business models because they're locked into record contracts with backwards-thinking labels.

So what can you and I do to help usher in the brave new world? The beauty of Oink was how fans willingly and hyper-efficiently took on distribution roles that traditionally have cost labels millions of dollars. Music lovers have shown that they're much more willing to put time and effort into music than they are money. It's time to show artists that there's no limit to what an energized online fanbase can accomplish, and all they'll ever ask for in return is more music. And it's time to show the labels that they missed a huge opportunity by not embracing these opportunities when they had the chance.

1. Stop buying music from major labels. Period. The only way to force change is to hit the labels where it hurts - their profits. The major labels are like Terry Schiavo right now - they're on life support, drooling in a coma, while white-haired guys in suits try and change the laws to keep them alive. But any rational person can see that it's too late, and it's time to pull out the feeding tube. In this case, the feeding tube is your money. Find out which labels are members/supporters of the RIAA and similar copyright enforcement groups, and don't support them in any way. The RIAA Radar is a great tool to help you with this. Don't buy CDs, don't buy iTunes downloads, don't buy from Amazon, etc. Steal the music you want that's on the major labels. It's easy, and despite the RIAA's scare tactics, it can be done safely - especially if more and more people are doing it. Send letters to those labels, and to the RIAA, explaining very calmly and professionally that you will no longer be supporting their business, because of their bullish scare tactics towards music fans, and their inability to present a forward-thinking digital distribution solution. Tell them you believe their business model is outdated and the days of companies owning artists' music are over. Make it very clear that you will continue to support the artists directly in other ways, and make it VERY clear that your decision has come about as a direct result of the record company's actions and inactions regarding digital music.

2. Support artists directly. If a band you like is stuck on a major label, there are tons of ways you can support them without actually buying their CD. Tell everyone you know about them - start a fansite if you're really passionate. Go to their shows when they're in town, and buy t-shirts and other merchandise. Here's a little secret: Anything a band sells that does not have music on it is outside the reach of the record label, and monetarily supports the artist more than buying a CD ever would. T-shirts, posters, hats, keychains, stickers, etc. Send the band a letter telling them that you're no longer going to be purchasing their music, but you will be listening to it, and you will be spreading the word and supporting them in other ways. Tell them you've made this decision because you're trying to force change within the industry, and you no longer support record labels with RIAA affiliations who own the music of their artists.

If you like bands who are releasing music on open, non-RIAA indie labels, buy their albums! You'll support the band you like, and you'll support hard-working, passionate people at small, forward-thinking music labels. If you like bands who are completely independent and are releasing music on their own, support them as much as possible! Pay for their music, buy their merchandise, tell all your friends about them and help promote them online - prove that a network of passionate fans is the best promotion a band can ask for.

3. Get the message out. Get this message out to as many people as you can - spread the word on your blog or your MySpace, and more importantly, tell your friends at work, or your family members, people who might not be as tuned into the internet as you are. Teach them how to use torrents, show them where to go to get music for free. Show them how to support artists while starving the labels, and who they should and shouldn't be supporting.

4. Get political. The fast-track to ending all this nonsense is changing intellectual property laws. The RIAA lobbies politicians to manipulate copyright laws for their own interests, so voters need to lobby politicians for the peoples' interests. Contact your local representatives and senators. Tell them politely and articulately that you believe copyright laws no longer reflect the interests of the people, and you will not vote for them if they support the interests of the RIAA. Encourage them to draft legislation that helps change the outdated laws and disproportionate penalties the RIAA champions. Contact information for state representatives can be found here, and contact information for senators can be found here. You can email them, but calling on the phone or writing them actual letters is always more effective.

Tonight, with Oink gone, I find myself wondering where I'll go now to discover new music. All the other options - particularly the legal ones - seem depressing by comparison. I wonder how long it will be before everyone can legally experience the type of music nirvana Oink users became accustomed to? I'm not too worried - something even better will rise out of Oink's ashes, and the RIAA will respond with more lawsuits, and the cycle will repeat itself over and over until the industry has finally bled itself to death. And then everything will be able to change, and it will be in the hands of musicians and fans and a new generation of entrepreneurs to decide how the new record business is going to work. Whether you agree with it or not, it's fact. It's inevitable - because the determination of fans to share music is much, much stronger than the determination of corporations to stop it.


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Wednesday, June 27, 2007subscribe to demonbaby

Can We Please, As a Culture, Just Move On?

[Currently Listening To: The Duke Spirit - Cuts Across the Land]

The title of this post is lifted from this XKCD strip - a commentary on the strange male preoccupation with penis size. I've never really understood it myself, but Idunno, maybe that's just because I have a huge cock. Anyway, today the concept of moving on as a culture applies to the media, and the focus of our national attention. Right now, CNN's front page is furiously ejaculating over its much-balyhooed post-jail interview with Paris Fuckbag Hilton. You know, the one Larry King conducted earlier today after scrapping a previously-scheduled interview with Michael Moore about some kinda important shit. I don't know what burning questions Mr. King ended up asking, because I'd rather watch an interview with my balls, but I'm sure it was a rousing hour of highly intellectual banter. You know what? Fuck you, Larry King. I hope you have trouble sleeping tonight because you realize you hit the rock bottom of journalistic integrity when you failed to tell your employers to go fuck themselves if they expected you to pretend to care about anything Paris Hilton has to say. You probably didn't, though - what do you care? It's more ratings, right? It's what people want. I think that makes Larry King and the highly respectable news team at CNN a fine choice for our second semi-occasional Embarrassing New Low Award:

At least someone on TV news had enough of all this (although since MSNBC is featuring that clip instead of being embarrassed by it, it's probably just a marketing ploy to take some wind out of CNN's sails).

The point is that we need to stop. All of us. We, as a culture, are being sedated with bullshit, day in and day out. And like Miss Hilton snorting blow off a toilet seat, it's easy and accessible and it's destroying us, but we can't get enough. In a world as fucked as ours, no one should be talking about Paris fucking Hilton. Not for any reason, ever. We shouldn't be praising her, we shouldn't be making fun of her, we shouldn't be criticizing her or reading about her or watching her shitty amateur porn videos. Not me, not you, and certainly not any entity presenting itself as a "news" organization. There are so many people in this world who are doing important things. There are people doing incredible, world-changing things every day, and you never hear about them. There are people who are doing unimaginably terrible things every day, and you never hear about them. Every day brilliant people are making new scientific discoveries, and creating new inventions. Every day truly evil people people are murdering thousands, and profiting from it. Every day powerful people are making new laws, enacting new policies, all of it affecting the world. Every day regular people are creating entertainment, running companies, teaching children, making sandwiches, and cleaning floors. Billions upon billions of people who are, in some way, positive or negative, contributing to society. Paris Hilton is not one of those people - the only thing unique about her is how astonishingly little she adds to the world. To devote so much of our national discourse to someone so devoid of value, at such a significant time in world history, is a crime - pure and simple.

Rich, powerful people - the one percent of the world's population who control 80 percent of its wealth - they love Paris Hilton. Dick Cheney and his big man-sized safe of evil secrets love Paris Hilton. They love Paris Hilton, and American Idol, and Britney and Lindsay and OJ and the Superbowl, and any of the other million things that our flaccid media uses to keep the fleeting national attention span distracted with issues of ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING SIGNIFICANCE WHATSOEVER. To keep us content, complacent, uninformed, and unmotivated to change. Al Gore recently wrote a whole book on the subject. In his words:
"We are at a pivotal moment in American democracy. The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, has reached levels that were previously unimaginable. It's too easy and too partisan to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes.

Reasoned, focused discourse is vital to our democracy to ensure a well-informed citizenry. But this is difficult in an environment in which we are experiencing a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time--from the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trials to Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith."

Gore perhaps doesn't chide the American public quite enough for their role in all this, saying that reason is "under assault by forces using sophisticated techniques such as propaganda, psychology, and electronic mass media." That's true, but it starts with us, as a society. As the people who consume this crap. It exists because we keep eating it up. We have to start by not giving one tenth of a shit what Paris Hilton has to say about anything - and even if you're talking about how much she sucks or laughing at her, you're still part of the problem, because you're still keeping the discourse going. Hell, I'm part of the problem by even writing this blog entry, but I'm vowing, right now, that even to make a statement, I will never talk about Paris Hilton ever again. I will never read about her, write about her, or allow myself to be exposed to anything relating to her whatsoever, and I suggest you do the same. Since no one's ready to start a revolution yet, we can at least take our own baby steps. Next time you see Paris on TV, change the channel. Next time you encounter a news article or a blog post about her, just move right along. When you inevitably see the Larry King interview featured on YouTube, resist the urge to click. Next time someone at the water cooler says "did you see what Paris Hilton did?" ask them if they know who their senators are. Don't even lecture them, just change the subject. Don't even talk about people talking about her too much. Don't even talk about not talking about Paris Hilton. Let's all, as a culture, just move on. But before you give your brain a Paris colonic, contact CNN and tell them that you're never, ever going to watch their network again, because you're tired of shallow entertainment masquerading as news. Tell them if their entire broadcast day was one tenth as insightful as one episode of The Daily Show's fake news broadcast - they'd have a good start. And while you're at it, drop an e-mail to the editors of People Magazine and give them a nice list of all the good things a person could do for the world with $300,000 - $300,000 of course being the amount People agreed to pay for photos of Paris Hilton to accompany a print interview.

Don't get me wrong - I love mindless entertainment and trashy pop culture as much as the next guy. I just finished laughing in jaw-dropped awe at R Kelly's latest masterpiece, a magnificent work of "urban poetry" which quells any fears I might have had that the next installment of Trapped In The Closet would fail to live up to the glory of the original. But when so much utterly inconsequential bullshit starts to become what America considers "news" that the entire national consciousness consistently ignores giant, glaring problems... well, we have a giant, glaring problem - and rich hotel heiresses being forced to serve jail time starts to seem less like sweet vindication and more like a symptom of a culture gone terribly awry.

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Friday, November 10, 2006subscribe to demonbaby

Don't Get Too Excited, Part Two: We're Still A Nation Of Bigots

[Currently Listening To: Psapp - The Only Thing I Ever Wanted]

(note: this is a continuation of yesterday's entry)

As the world continues to celebrate this week's small but welcome return to common sense in American politics, and liberals everywhere are filled with hope for the future, let us not forget something very important: The American people haven't changed. Sure, a few more of us have finally acknowledged that the Iraq war is a cataclysmic disaster and something needs to be done about it, but beyond that, we're still the same nation bitterly divided between intelligent, rational people and closed-minded simpletons. How else do you explain seven more states voting to ban gay marriage on tuesday? Yes, amidst Democratic victories there were seven losses for common sense, as voters in Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin all decided to actively take away legal rights from a specific group of people.

Strip away whatever you might think about homosexuality for a moment, and really think about that: 20 of the 50 United States - the home of the free, the land of equal rights and opportunity - now have passed laws for the specific purpose of taking away the rights of certain people, purely because they are scared. They're scared of what they don't understand, because their superstitious little brains have been sealed off to other types of identity by a misguided interpretation of a very old book. No, not all homophobia is derived from religious beliefs, but you can be damned sure that Christianity is the driving force behind our country's growing gay discrimination.

I'm not gay, and I'm not some sort of gay rights activist - but this particular issue infuriates me, because it's rooted so wholly in ignorance. There is not one single valid reason in the entire universe why gay people should not be allowed to have every single legal right that straight people do, and to think otherwise is to be wrong. Period. I don't usually say this, but you're simply, unequivocally WRONG if you think that way.

Now, sometimes people will try and pretend that these laws aren't discrimination, because marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, and we should not redefine it, and if gay people want to have their own marriage but call it something else, that's all well and good. Well, there are a number of problems with that reasoning, but here's the main one: Marriage isn't just some fun little thing that people do when they're in love. It's not just vows and rice and rings and gift registries at Bed Bath & Beyond. It's a legal commitment, recognized by the government, which gives you special rights, tax cuts, etc that couples who are not married do not have access to. So, if you want to save the word "marriage" for the straight couples - if that's really so important - then at the very least you have to introduce a new form of marriage specifically for gay couples that is a recognized legal commitment with the exact same privileges of straight marriage. It's funny how none of these gay marriage bans have managed to include that part of the deal. And that is where these laws should be exposed as pure discrimination, but because fundamental Christian beliefs are aggressively embedded into this country's moral consciousness like termites in the walls of a decaying house, there just aren't enough people who get it.

Not that I should be surprised. We are, after all, a country with a long history of bigotry. We used to burn women we thought were witches. We used to own slaves. Until 1920, women couldn't vote. And merely a generation ago we were still restricting peoples' rights simply because of the color of their skin. These days, most everyone recognizes that it was pretty fucked up to have laws preventing black people from voting, or make them sit on the back of the bus, etc. But have we really learned anything? Apparently not, because legal discrimination is still taking place all across the country. It's institutionalized homophobia. Sexual apartheid. It's state law saying, in no uncertain terms, "you are a second-class citizen for being gay."

My parents are divorced, so it's easy for me to see that straight people suck at marriage just as much as gay people would. The conservatives, however, will portray the "sanctity of marriage" as something that needs defending. And they're right, it does - only it needs defending from themselves, not gays. With over half of U.S. marriages ending in divorce, and thirty percent of all straight women having reported physical or sexual abuse by their significant others - it seems to me that straight people are doing plenty to ruin the sanctity of marriage on their own.

What makes this all simultaneously funny and infuriating is the increasing evidence that Christian Conservative America - the very source of the ongoing organized attack on gay rights - is secretly home to more steamy gay sex than a San Francisco bath house. These poor bastards let themselves be tormented with their sexuality rather than simply acknowledging that it's just the way they are, and there's nothing wrong with it, and maybe the Bible is a book of parables from a thousand years ago not meant to be taken quite so seriously. You really see how powerful and dangerous religious indoctrination can be when it pits people even against themselves. This recent editorial on the closeted conservatives subject suggests that "One sure measure of any society's psychological well-being lies in its attitude to homosexuality." If that's the case - and I genuinely believe that it is - then America needs a lot of therapy.

Ultimately, there's no difference between a gay marriage having the same rights as a straight marriage, and a black person using the same drinking fountain as a white person. And the fact that more than half of our country can't recognize that makes me wonder if we've made any progress at all since the 1960's. Keep in mind that rallying Christian Conservatives against gay marriage has been one of the key successes of Karl Rove's manipulative strategy with the Bush campaign - and clearly, despite letting some Democrats slip into congress, people are still by and large on Bush's side with this one. You can expect him to use that boon to his advantage as much as possible over the next couple years, because it's all he has left. Things may yet get a lot worse for equal rights in this country before they get better.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006subscribe to demonbaby

Don't Get Too Excited, Part One: We're Still Careening Head-First Towards The End Of Civilization As We Know It

[Currently Listening To: Mojave 3: Puzzles Like You]

Right at this moment, liberals - and anyone with any degree of common sense - are feeling pretty damned good about the big political smack-down that just occurred in the States. We got a one, two, three punch: On tuesday Democrats won the majority in the House Of Representatives. Yesterday, in a stunning show of defeat (and a smart pre-emptive move), President Bush finally dismissed his beleaguered butt-buddy Donald Rumsfeld. And today, it's official: Democrats have control of the Senate, as well, which means a potentially significant roadblock for the Bush agenda during his final two years. And, well, yeah, it does feel pretty good. It's exciting to see smart, cultured, reasonable people celebrating for once. For some reason I think about that scene at the end of Star Wars right after the Death Star explodes, and everyone is cheering as a giddy Luke Skywalker jumps out of his X-Wing cockpit and excitedly embraces Princess Leia, and he totally wants to make out with her because he doesn't know she's his sister yet. That's how it feels right now: Like the Rebellion has struck a mighty blow to the Evil Empire. Sure, the Empire's far from defeated, and yeah, the Republicans will build another Death Star, but damnit, it's a good first step.

But wait. Don't get too excited. Remember what happened after that Star Wars celebration? That's right: The Empire struck back. Shit got heavy. We're a long ways away from that stupid Ewok victory song at the end of Return Of The Jedi.

While the Congressional victories seem promising, let's also remember that at this point, Bush was all but campaigning for the Democrats with the way Iraq's been going. At a certain point even the dumbest of red state war-mongers have to realize Dubya's blown it on an epic scale, and even a handful of them translating that realization into a vote for the other side is enough to ever-so-slightly tip the scales of a sharply divided nation. But while the Democrats are having their big victory party - I'm picturing Barack Obama and Sean Penn doing tequila shots at Al Gore's house while Hilary Clinton and Cindy Sheehan get high and end up making out in a back room and things are super weird the next morning - there's still plenty to be concerned about. This election still brought its usual round of losses for common sense that shouldn't be ignored.

Here in California, we were once again given the option of not having The Terminator as our Governor, and we once again responded with a resounding "duurrrrr, I like him, I done seen him on da tee-vee!" Granted, Ah-nold hasn't turned out to be quite as bad as a Bush-friendly Republican movie star former steroid user with a speech impediment could have been, but come on, we're still talking about the most populated state in the country being run by this guy:

There are these idiotic shirts they sell all over California - they even sell them at the airport, so that visitors to the state will immediately get a great first impression of what we're all about. They look like this:

For real. They're everywhere. People love that shit. And the best part is that the shirts are so fucking dumb they've managed to mis-spell an invented word. THERE IS AN R IN "GOVERN," FUCKWITS!

Californians also rejected proposition 87, a seemingly no-brainer initiative that would raise taxes on oil companies, and use the money to research alternative fuels. Now, I'm not going to bore you with the pros and cons of this initiative, but here's what it came down to: On one side, you have people like Bill Clinton and Al Gore and a number of other big names with environmental interests fighting to tax oil companies for funding alternative fuel research. On the other hand, you have the oil companies, scum of the earth that they are, who stand to lose four billion dollars if the proposition passes, and don't want alternative fuels to be developed anyway because it threatens their massive empire. So what do they do? They spend 100 MILLION DOLLARS on an aggressive propaganda campaign to convince voters it's a bad idea. Their most recent TV ad shows an earnest-looking firefighter - yes, a firefighter, the post-911 trump card of righteousness, telling you that you should vote against prop 87 because it will somehow hurt firefighters and teachers, and it would lead to "a future we can't afford." Watch the ad here while it's still up, and enjoy how fucking manipulative it is. There are no facts at all, just pure, unadulterated propaganda. Almost better are the radio ads, which feature staged conversations between average people saying "they're going to RAISE gas prices?? that's the last thing we need!" - click here to listen, and keep in mind that this is presented by the very companies who are making hundreds of billions of dollars in profit even while gas prices rise. Also notice how they sneak the oil company names in at the very end.

When you see ads like that, you can't help but think about how effective they must be on the idiot masses, and you can't help but wonder why political ads are even allowed in the first place. You can just imagine Joe Normal sitting on his couch, seeing those ads and thinking "Gas is expensive! Need gas to drive my SUV! Gas taxes are bad! NO ON 87!" Nevermind that he should be driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Nevermind that if we don't solve our dependance on oil we're going to be completely, irreparably fucked in our collective asses, sans lube, in the very near future. To be fair, the "Yes On 87" campaign wasn't completely honest either - they tried to pretend that the proposition had measures in place to prevent the oil companies from passing their tax burden on to consumers. Because "tax" is a four-letter word in politics, even if there's a good purpose behind it. And we all know that prop 87 would for sure have raised gas prices. But you know what? Good. To my mind, gas prices should be raised through the fucking roof. Raise them and keep raising them. Get them up to five dollars a gallon so maybe we can finally end this idiotic, short-sighted trend of everyone driving gigantic, gas-guzzling vehicles. Get them up to ten dollars a gallon so people will finally get mad. People need to start rioting in the streets. People should set their cars on fire and let the economy fall quickly to pieces, so the government has to do something. We should all bust out the torches and storm the fucking oil companies, go all Castle Frankenstein on their asses and demand that they be shut down. Demand that all their profits be siezed and used to develop useful public transportation and alternative fuels. Put everyone involved in Halliburton and the rest of the war-profiteering oil industry on trial for raping the public, along with every elected official who sold their soul to help it along. Sell all our cars to China and let those fuckers dig their own grave while we all get around in the world's most advanced, nationwide public transportation system. As if that would ever happen. You know why solar power never took off? Because the energy companies couldn't figure out how to charge us for sunshine. It's the same reason we'll never be driving cars that run on water - there just isn't enough money to be made from it.

Where's our revolution? Where's that 1960's change-the-world spirit that should be our collective reaction to where we're headed right now? In the 90's Bill Clinton got a blowjob and we nearly impeached the fucker. Our current President lies to us repeatedly and gets thousands of Americans killed as a result, and we re-elect him?? This guy sent thousands of our citizens to die in a war that has spiraled out of control and claimed hundreds of thousands of victims while simultaneously fanning the flames of anti-American sentiment around the world - and our big outrage is that we finally, barely elect enough Democrats to get a slight majority in Congress? That's not something to be too excited about. I guarantee you, if George Bush came on national television during halftime at the Superbowl and announced he was prohibiting the second half of the game from being aired on TV, there would be fucking rioting in the streets. It would make the LA riots look like cuddle party. Every asshole in the States would be toppling cars and getting tear-gassed by cops and martial law would be declared, and you know what? I bet the second half would be on TV before halftime even ended, because millions of angry people rioting in the streets tends to make shit happen. People shouldn't be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people. Too bad people are too self-centered to look into anyone's future but their own immediate ones. They've got their Superbowl. They've got their SUV. Nevermind that their eight hour work day is now a twelve hour work day because the freeways are so congested, or that the commute costs them $15 a day in gas - just as long as Deal Or No Deal is waiting for them on the television at home, sedating them with mindless entertainment.

Two weeks ago a report came out from the World Wildlife Fund which should have been much, much bigger news than it was. I was honestly stunned that it wasn't a huge news story - it barely caused a blip. The report, discussed here, concludes that humanity's "ecological footprint" - the amount of natural resources needed by each person - has more than tripled in the last forty years, and by 2050 we will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year to sustain our current way of life. And that's only assuming our resources won't have already run out by 2050, which they likely will. Oh, and if all of the world lived like Americans, we'd need five planets worth of natural resources a year to sustain us.

Think about that. 2050 is likely within my lifetime, and likely within many of yours, and most certainly your children. By that time, we will probably have depleted our world of natural resources. That's some serious shit. That's, like, Mad Max, end-of-the-world shit. It's going to be like Waterworld, except without all the water, and admittedly probably still not as bad as having to sit through that movie. And that's to say nothing of what global warming will have done to us by then. Just a couple days ago, an editorial in The Guardian by a guy who looks like Henry Gale with AIDS, commented on western society's apathy towards anything that doesn't directly affect them right now, and very wisely said, "It will take bodies in the streets before we see serious global action to stop catastrophic climate change." Yeah. Except by then it will be too late.

We aren't going to stop using natural resources until it's too late. We aren't going to do anything about global warming until it's too late. We aren't going to stop using too much oil until it's too late. That's not me being cynical so much as it's me being realistic. Preventing the WWF's dire predictions for 2050 would mean a drastic overhall of the way we think and live. It would mean massive changes to industry and the economy, and not for the better. It would mean everyone shutting off their consumerist mentalities and living more subdued lives. It would mean you don't get to drive a fancy car, and you don't get a 99 cent double cheeseburger, and you don't get to shop at Wal-Mart. It would mean accepting that maybe life isn't about picking which box has a million dollars in it so you can buy yourself happiness. Maybe it's about love and compassion and being happy with what you have. About enjoying life for what it is. About working together for the betterment of our species and all species. About being part of nature instead of working against it. Thinking outside yourself and what you've been led to believe you need. More this, more that. It's all an illusion. But no one's going to do that. I'm not going to do that. I still want the newest iPod and the biggest TV and I don't want to have to think about where all my garbage goes when I throw it away. Just like everyone else. And we're going to keep it up until there are bodies in the streets and we all let out a collective "oops!" Global warming isn't a debate because it may or may not exist - it's a debate because it does exist, and there's a lot of money to be lost if we start doing something about it. Humanity is a virus that feeds on greed, and we're going to destroy our host. We're a cancer, and global warming is earth's chemotherapy - its final desperate, agonizing attempt to flush us out before we kill it off.

Stephen Hawking has said that the human race will not survive another 1000 years unless we colonize other planets. 1000 years? Oh Stephen, you lovable, drooling little genius - I've always admired your optimism... And how you talk like a robot. I think that's neat.

Okay, I didn't mean for this to turn into such a cynical, hopeless rant. I promise by next week I'll be back to poop stories.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006subscribe to demonbaby

MySpace Aesthetics, Cell Phone Ringtones, And A Case For Forced Natural Selection

[Currently Listening To: Elbow - Leaders Of The Free World]

So I was on MySpace the other day. Yeah, I know, I know. But I can't help it. As awful as it all is, the voyeur in me can't stay away - there's something so fascinating about the way people choose to represent themselves to the world - which aspects of their personalities take over when it comes time to decorate their little plot of narcissistic digital real estate. Foremost among my many sources of MySpace disgust is the ever-growing number of people who display a monumental lack of taste by picking a convoluted custom layout from one of those third party "Pimp My MySpace" websites, and turn their profile into an illegible mess of tiled backgrounds, neon font colors, transparencies, animated GIFs, embedded audio/video (all of it autoplaying at the same time, of course), javascript slideshows, and a strange obsession with having the largest possible number of complete strangers on their friends list. It's probably about time I start collecting aesthetic atrocities like this one for some sort of future Unfathomably Hideous MySpace Profile Awards. If you have any winners, please leave them in the comments of this entry. It begs the question of how one of the ugliest websites on the internet could also be one of the most popular - and why someone with some clout and taste (Apple comes to mind) hasn't stepped up with a better and more eye-pleasing alternative.

Anyway, my point is that I was on MySpace, and I found myself looking at one of those annoying Flash advertisements they always have. You know the ones - you've seen them all over the place. They'll have some inane little cartoon Flash game that invites you to whack the President, or hike the football, or some other stupid thing. There's a button you can click to play the game, and if you succeed, you "WIN A FREE RINGTONE!!" Well, much like anyone else with more than a third grade education, I see these ads all the time and I've never paid any attention to them, other than to briefly roll my eyes and wonder who's dumb enough to click on those things. After all, obviously as soon as you click it you're taken to a website where some absurd marketing device attempts to con you into signing up for something in exchange for a free ringtone. It's not like you just win this stupid little game and suddenly get a ringtone. And even if you did, what in the name of fuck would I want a free cell phone ringtone for? I wouldn't. Ever. So of course, like any other reasonable person, I never click on those ads... At least, I hadn't, until the other day. The other day, something struck me. I glanced at one of those stupid little flash cartoons, and I guess my eyes sat on it for longer than they ever have before... and somehow, something snapped inside my brain.

The ad was these two little robots, standing on cliffs, opposite each other. Each one had a mechanical arm with a little chompy monster for a hand. In between them, a cell phone was just floating there, ripe for the taking. It was practically begging one of these little robots to reach over and pick it up. A large font instructed me to "GRAB THE PHONE!" which I was presumably to do by clicking a large red button:

What distressed me about this ad was that the robot on the left - a strange and obviously insidious creature with beady eyes, a fishbowl head, and a body of coiled metal twisted to resemble an atom - he was already furiously spinning his gears, extending his little monster hand slowly but steadily towards the floating phone. He had a stunningly unfair head start, while the other robot - the t-shirt-sporting television head whose fate I had been entrusted with unsolicited - he just stood there, helpless, his chomping arm hanging limp to his side. Unable to move on his own, he was forced to watch as his nemesis grew closer and closer to taking away the only thing he had ever wanted in life - that damned floating cell phone. And me, I just sat there, hesitant to intervene and yet horrified that I could be entrusted with such power and not use it for this poor robot's benefit.

So I clicked. I clicked the big red button, and lo and behold, the little robot's arm moved a little. So I clicked again, and again, until I was furiously clicking, cringing in suspense as my robot's little chompy monster arm raced against impossible odds to reach the cell phone first. And then...

I did it. I won! The little television-headed robot got his precious phone, Rupert Murdoch got a few cents richer, and I was thrust into a strange world of pop-up advertising which informed me what I'd feared all along: There was no ringtone. At least, not without a great deal of further hassle. Something about participation in something. Well, at least now I knew for sure, and ultimately I wasn't disappointed, because honestly, who in the FUCK gives a shit about cell phone fucking ringtones? Shaking loose from the treacherous grasp of clever marketing which had temporarily ensnared me, I was reminded of how absurd I find it that a whole industry has sprung up based entirely on the ignorance and bad taste involved in purchasing ringtones.

Have you seen that stupid Verizon commercial that plays before movies (I presume it plays on TV as well, but thanks to Tivo I haven't watched a TV commercial in years), with that hunk-of-shit Nelly Furtado song playing, and all these idiotic Gap ad extras holding their cell phones up to their ears and doing embarrassing pseudo-hip-hop dance moves, always with their eyes closed to show just how much they're feeling the groove from their shitty little phone's primitive MP3 playback capabilities? Being in a movie theatre forced to sit through that abomination (don't even get me started on ads before movies) has filled me anew with a fresh batch of contempt for the world on a number of occasions. How in the name of Christ did the sound your phone makes to alert you that someone is calling you become such a tremendously big deal to everyone? Are we all that fucking stupid? Apparently so, because it's everywhere you look: TV commercials advertise ringtones, cellular companies use it as a marketing hook, it's all over websites and billboards... The major record companies have created entire "mobile" divisions to deal with the demand for ringtones of their music, and capitalize tremendously off of it. Why? Because it's insanely profitable. They charge two or three bucks for shitty little 30 second clips of disposable pop songs, just so someone can have a tinny, low-fidelity chorus from a Kelly Clarkson track looping out of their pocket whenever they get a text message of broken english and lazy abbreviations (i.e. "hey wut r u doin?"). Two or three dollars for ringtones, when you could get the entire song in CD quality off of iTunes for ninety nine cents. When presented with such an offer, the appropriate response from the masses should have been, simply, "no." No, phone companies and record labels, we have no interest in paying an exorbitant amount of money for something that should be free, just for the sake of annoying everyone around us with an obnoxious loop of bad music. Of course, the actual response was - amazingly - the exact opposite. I can almost see the suits at Cingular standing around sales charts after this all took off, their mouths agape in bewilderment that it had actually worked. Saying to themselves: "You mean... people actually fell for this? People are paying us for little bits of music to play from their cell phones??" Of course we did, Mr. Giant Telecommunications Company. We will happily be the fertilizer of stupidity in your garden of unfathomable wealth, if you just market it the right way.

All of this rambling is funneling down to one major theme: People. Are. Idiots. En masse, Americans in particular are a vapid, ignorant, taste-challenged, easily-distracted ocean of marketing victim automatons. Why are we so much more interested in American Idol than world affairs? Why do more people read tabloids than newspapers? Why does the nightly news highlight car chases and celebrity break-ups while glazing over issues of massive global significance? Why are we so meek? Why are we not outraged that our president lied to take us to war, or that education funding is abysmally low while we continue to pour money into the military, or that oil companies are making record profits while gas prices climb and no alternative energy sources are being aggressively pursued, or that global warming is going to fuck us up sooner than we think, or that millions of people don't have healthcare, or that we're spending billions and billions and billions of dollars attempting to repair our own mess in Iraq, while millions of our own citizens are homeless or hungry? We should be living in times of extreme social unrest, of protest and change. We should be a nation seeking out the truth, uniting together to demand answers and accountability, asserting ourselves as a society who will not be so easily manipulated. But we're not. Why? Because that takes thought. It takes reading, and critical analysis, and an interest in the world outside of our little bubbles of simple comforts. It's a lot easier to be zombified by Everybody Loves Raymond than to better yourself with knowledge. We've been brilliantly distracted by ringtones, and television, and MySpace, and sports, and whatever else keeps us from learning, or questioning, or in any way bettering ourselves or our society.

My Stepfather is not someone who would probably identify himself as a Republican, nor would he, when pressed, particularly agree with most of our President's policies. But in the last election he - despite my mother's pleadings to the contrary - voted for Bush. His reason? "Well, my life hasn't gotten any worse since he's been in office, so why rock the boat?" That tragic mentality seems to be held by far, far more people than it should, in regards to a wide range of topics. They've got their good-enough lives with their job and their house, they've got sports scores and ringtones to keep them distracted, and that's all they need. I can't wait until everything goes straight to shit. I can't wait until our whole civilization implodes under the weight of its own greed and arrogance and ignorance. I can't wait until we finally reach the end of one of the many direct routes to self-destruction we've been so carefully carving out over the years, and everyone wonders how it snuck up on them like that. It's been there all along, people - you just weren't paying attention.

Sometimes I think the real problem is that the comforts of modern life have circumvented the process of natural selection, allowing whole bloodlines of incredibly stupid people to continue on well after they should have died out. We need to give natural selection a little push, and help eradicate the world of vacant idiots. Personally, I'd start with celebrity worship. If you seriously follow celebrity gossip, and genuinely care about Gweneth Paltrow having a baby or how Jessica Simpson is holding up since her break-up... Kill yourself. If you've ever used the word "Brangelina" with no trace of irony... Kill yourself. Obsessing over the inane personal lives of borderline-retarded complete strangers because your own life is devoid of any interest or meaning is possibly the most pathetic way to waste your sorry life away that I can think of. Every issue of US Weekly should contain a packet of poisonous gas that bursts when someone opens the magazine, killing them instantly. Celebrity gossip shows on E! should emit radioactive waves from the TV, rendering you unable to reproduce if you watch it for more than ten minutes. As soon as you push the button to confirm your ringtone download of any song with the word "thurr" in it, your phone should detonate, taking your empty fucking head off along with it. It's not murder, it's just forced natural selection. It's really for the best.

The sad thing is, I shouldn't feel as smart as I do. I shouldn't have any place to talk. And yet, the bar has gotten so low, that people consider me fairly intelligent and comparatively well-informed, simply because I can form a sentence and I could give you a basic summary of what's happening in the Middle East. I've put the bare minimum effort into my education, and that's all it takes to feel intelligent in this country. After all, I didn't graduate college, and the bit of college I did attend was art school which, if anything, actually made me dumber. So I'm working with a high school education here - and that's public school. I didn't come from money or privilege, I had no special treatment or silver spoon opportunities. Likewise, my oh-so-intimate knowledge of world affairs comes from watching The Daily Show and briefly skimming through the news every day, only occasionally giving a subject thorough investigation if it's something that interests me. So it's sad that with that minimum effort, I feel like I'm in fucking MENSA compared to a lot of people. If we were a society that even remotely championed knowledge and shunned ignorance - if scholars and scientists were our heroes, instead of basketball players and pop singers - I would be considered incredibly stupid - and rightfully so. Thankfully, though, this is no such place, and everything is relative - so I can continue living the American dream of being incredibly smug with really very little to back it up.

Anyway, enough of this nonsense. I'm gonna go see if anyone left me a comment on MySpace.

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Monday, March 06, 2006subscribe to demonbaby

Things That Make Me Lose Faith In Humanity. Starring: Hip-hop cows, Devo 2.0, and Bratz.

[Currently Listening To: Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!]

So I always tell myself I'm going to update this site more often, and then I get busy and it simply doesn't happen. But I have an hour to kill right now so I'm going to ramble about nothing in particular. I'm in Canada at the moment. There's a lot of weird shit in Canada. Weird like slightly tweaked versions of stuff we have in America. Like there's some sort of radiation on the Canadian border, and everything mutates a little bit on its journey over here from the states. I was at Taco Bell and they had Fries Supreme, which was all the shit they dump on top of nachos to call it Nachos Supreme, but dumped on french fries instead. The fuck is that all about? Most disturbing though is this hip-hop milk campaign they have up here. Remember in the early nineties when the golden ticket of trying to market something to kids was by turning everything into a shitty rap? I fear those days have returned. I saw this amazing commercial before a movie last night with these dumb blinged-out chicks singing about milk with hip-hop dairy farmers doing dance numbers around a cow ("big bad bessie"), with Missy Elliot somehow involved. I was so horrified and amazed I had to look it up online, and thank God it's available for everyone to view. Behold: Drinkin' milk is straight hip-hop, yo.

My favorite part is when the dairy farmer turns his hat to the side. For some reason the confused and offended way that commercial made me feel reminded me of something I'd meant to write about a while back:

For a healthy span of my teenage years, Devo was the greatest band in the world. Sure, by the time I discovered them their heyday had already come and gone, but to me it was new and exciting. At a time when the airwaves were dominated by the post-Nirvana onslaught of generic "alternative" bands, the quirky synth-pop treasures of the late seventies and early eighties became a haven for me and my friends. While our peers were choking on the latest musical turds from Bush and Stone Temple Pilots, we were listening to Gary Numan, Brian Eno, The Talking Heads, and of course, Devo. With Devo it wasn't just the music but also the image, and the message, and the presentation. There was no modern equivalent of a band that dressed up in radiation suits and played keyboard guitars and made bizarre promotional movies about the themes of their music. Their message of social de-evolution and their satyrical take on pop consumerism became the perfect soundtrack to my disaffected anti-everything teen angst phase - and since I never really got out of that phase, they remain one of my favorite bands to this day.

So you can imagine my horror when I discovered Devo 2.0, a Disney-sponsored, kid-friendly resurrection of Devo in the form of five talentless tweens. Yes, this is a band of children who perform their own unlistenable, watered-down versions of Devo classics, with Mark Mothersbaugh's lead role replaced by an irritating and atonal 12 year old girl. The reaction I had when I saw this was something akin to how you might react if you walked in on your naked mother giving rectal birth to a purple leprechaun. And I don't mean like the playful little leprechaun who's always trying to steal your Lucky Charms - I mean like the creepy, wart-nosed, goblinesque leprechaun from those shitty old horror movies. Try to imagine her - imagine your own mother, squatting over the bathroom floor, sweating and straining, grunting with agony as the slimy, bloody, gnarled purple head of a mythical Irish troll creature begins to push out of her gaping rectum. Imagine then, as the head fully emerges from your mom's ass, smelling of feces and placenta, that the leprechaun's catlike yellow eyes open up and look right at you - right through your soul - as if the little newborn beast already knows all of your secrets. The stew of confusion, disgust, astonishment and horror you would most certainly be feeling is more or less the way I felt when I first discovered the abomination that is Devo 2.0.

Initially I thought "there's no way Devo has anything to do with this." Certainly they lost the rights to their songs - maybe Michael Jackson bought them like he bought all those Beatles songs, and he sold them to Disney, and the vile, wicked henchmen at Disney gathered around in the boardroom where they come up with genius ideas like straight-to-video Bambi sequels, and they tried to think of the worst possible thing they could do with this great music they had acquired, while Devo cried in agony as everything they once stood for was burned to the ground before their very eyes. But no. No, in fact not only was this done with Devo's consent, but Devo is actually heavily involved in the project, producing the album and even directing the videos. It is beyond disheartening that a band who once mocked consumerism is now embracing it in the worst possible way. And not only that, doing it incredibly poorly. This isn't just a bad idea, it's bad execution.

I encourage you to visit the Devo 2.0 website, and try to sit through the cringe-inducing music videos (go here if the ones on their site aren't working). Try to not want to pound the singer girl's little pre-pubescent head in with a sledgehammer when she makes this face:

Try watching "Beautiful World." The original was a fucking classic, with a legendary Chuck Statler music video that reinforced the song's cynical social commentary. Devo 2.0's version not only drives rusty spikes into your ears with how horrendously it's performed (the little keyboard girl's singing! fuck!), but it even changes the lyrics to be positive and kid-friendly, and in turn completely reverses the message of the song. Oh, and don't forget "Girl U Want" being re-recorded as "Boy U Want" so the singer girl doesn't sound like she's lezzing out.

I don't know what it is about growing old and irrelevant that makes brilliant people want to retread on their past successes and subsequently destroy them. George Lucas is of course the reigning king of this vile practice. When he re-released the Star Wars trilogy in 1997 and turned Jabba's palace into a fucking discoteque, we should have known what was coming. Some brave nerd should have assassinated Lucas - blown his blubbery neckless head off before he ever got the chance to dream up Jar Jar Binks and forever leave an oily brown skidmark on the once pristine tidy whities of the Star Wars legacy.

If kids actually swallow this Devo 2.0 turd, what's next? What other counter-culture icons of my disaffected youth could be reborn as kid-friendly slop? Maybe Nirvana 2.0, with a pint-sized Kurt Cobain who gets sugar highs instead of shooting heroin? How about Nine Inch Nails 2.0, with a fishnet-clad eleven year old girl singing "I want to passive-aggressively flirt with you on the playground like an animal"?

When I have kids, they're going to be totally bummed out, because I'm not going to let them erode their brains with all the stupid shit their friends are allowed to be into. They're going to play with good toys and listen to good music and watch good cartoons, whether they like it or not. No Timmy, I don't care if all your friends are listening to some Hilary Duff sugary kid pop bullshit, you're going to listen to the White Album and you're going to like it. What's that, Revolution No. 9 gives you nightmares? Don't be a pussy. Suzie, you can't have a pink toy cell phone that plays a Missy Elliot song when you push the buttons. You're nine years old, you're going to play with fucking Legos and they're going to make you smart. And not the new Lego kits with the big fancy custom pieces that take all the imagination out of it - you get square blocks. Build your own fucking rocket ship. Oh, and every time you listen to a Pussycat Dolls song, a kitten dies.

Speaking of which, toys for little girls are getting way out of hand. Girls have always gotten a bum deal in the toy department - while we boys were having adventures in outer space and transforming trucks into giant robots, the girls were... pretending to cook? Taking care of babies? Girls toys have always been pink plastic recreations of bland real-life exercises designed to groom them into becoming obedient housewives. Which is pretty fucked up, but not as bad as the new trend of girl toys, which is grooming a future army of vapid, slutty, club-hopping Paris Hilton shitbags. Case in point: Two of the most popular lines of girls merchandise right now, Bratz and My Scene. If you haven't seen these dolls, you probably haven't been in a toy store in the last few years. Both Bratz and My Scene dolls characterize slutty-looking girls with way too much make-up and collagen lips who wear skimpy clothes, talk on their cell phones, go shopping, hook up with guys, and go out to da club. You know, the types of things that eight year old girls should be thinking about. The dolls look like this:

Oh, and they even have hip-hop boyfriends. Yes, parents, encourage your daughters to aspire to be raped by these winners:

The Bratz dolls have even branched out into BABY Bratz. Yes, fucking infants slutting it up for a hot night out:

One of them even comes with a thong.

A quick visit to the My Scene website will give you a pretty good idea of how repulsive their collection is - be sure to watch the commercials for their new line of toys: "My Bling Bling" dolls. And this shit is for LITTLE KIDS. It's basically warming them up to start watching MTV and have their morals and intelligence beaten to a bloody pulp by the mindless, abhorrent filth MTV shoves down the throats of impressionable 14 year olds. The bottom line is that if you are a parent and you buy "bling bling" dolls for your little girl, you're a fucking shitty parent. There is not one single thing about these toys that even remotely on any level encourages intelligence or creativity. All it does is provide kids with a very tangible goal of growing up to be vacant, shitty, wastes of oxygen. If Devo were still alive and hadn't been killed and replaced by a bunch of fat old men who rape their own art so they can buy a new boat, I'm confident they would have a firm anti-Bratz stance.

Okay, I'm done ranting for today.

(thanks Tam for the rocket ship joke)


Tuesday, January 10, 2006subscribe to demonbaby

New Year's Drama, Guys in Bands, and A Public Service Announcement for the People of Los Angeles

[Currently Watching: Metropolis]

Last year, my roommate and I had a big new year's party. It was kind of insane but a lot of fun, so we decided to do it again this year, even though my roommate has since moved out and I've taken the place over for myself. Her involvement meant twice the amount of people would be showing up, as usually a large chunk of the crowd at our parties is her friends and their friends. And indeed, there was quite a crowd this year. It was more or less perfect when we all shouted the countdown and toasted with champagne, but after that more people just kept coming, and by about one o'clock I was no longer having fun, as I was neurotically shoving my way through the masses into various rooms, policing the dozens of strangers who were wandering throughout my house. There were as many people outside as there were inside, completely packing the patio and spilling out into the driveway and street, and the majority of them were complete douchebags. Douchebags with beards.

I don't know why, but LA hipsters love their fucking big ugly 70's beards. There are always large groups of sweater-wearing bearded Silverlake uber-douches that crawl out of dirty coffee shops and used record stores and manage to find their way to my house whenever I have a party, just so they can sausage out the place and drink up all the beer. I think they feel like having a beard and wearing a sweater distinguishes them as record-collecting, coffee-drinking, PBRs-at-Silverlake-Lounge hipsters who are in math rock bands, rather than the beardless, drug-snorting, Jack-and-Coke-at-The-Beauty-Bar hipsters who are in new wave bands. The irony beard is one of my least favorite looks for lame hipster dudes. It doesn't look cool, guys. There's nothing even remotely attractive or interesting about it. You look like complete tools. Shave that shit and please put a fucking bullet in this asinine 70's trend that no one can seem to let go of. That includes shirts like these:

You know the type: Idiotic, faux-vintage shirts with stupid tongue-in-cheek 70's/80's graphics and/or catch phrases. PLEASE. Everyone. Go to your closet and pull out all of the shirts like this that you've bought at Urban Outfitters since this dumb trend started a thousand years back, and burn them to the fucking ground. Don't sell them to a thrift store, that will only compound the problem. Just set them ablaze. It's time to let go. It's fucking over. It descended into mall fashion more than two years ago but still no one can get enough. I'm ashamed that my generation is going to be looked back on as the one who couldn't muster up enough creativity to define their own style, but instead had to drudge up bad fashion statements from the past and feign nostalgia for shit that happened before they were born.

Another vile infection of my party - and this city in general - is everyone's need to be in a shitty little local band, and - more importantly - that anyone still thinks that's cool. It's not. It's not cool, it's not unique, it's not impressive. These days, it's much more unique to not be in a band, and have no desire to be in one. Literally everyone in LA is in some manner of insignificant indie band, and guys in bands can't wait to find a way to tell you about it. I can't tell you how many times some friend introduces me to some typical LA dude with shaggy hair and stupid clothes wearing sunglasses inside, and I say something nonchalant like "Hey, nice to meet you, what's going on?" and his response is along the lines of: "Oh, not too bad. Just finished up recording some new tracks with my band." How am I meant to react to that? HOLY SHIT!! Whoa, WHAT?? You're in a BAND??? FUCK, that's SO COOL!!! I had NO IDEA I was talking to someone who's IN A BAND!! Please, tell me all about it! Tell me how you got signed to a record label that your girlfriend's cousin runs out of his basement, and you're releasing your first EP in March, and by releasing you mean it'll be on the local music shelf at Amoeba because this girl you used to date works there and she'll hook you up if you keep knocking the drinks off of her bill when she comes into the restaurant you work at. Please, tell me which combination of early 80's post-punk bands you sound like, and by sound like I mean a watered-down copy of a copy of a copy, stripped of talent and innovation and sincerity.

Or, my other favorite: "So, what do you do?" "Oh, I'm in a band." Okay, let me rephrase that: "What restaurant do you work at?" Or: "Do you just work the cashier at Amoeba, or do you stock the shelves too?" Unless you are one of the few people who actually have had enough success with your band to be able to quit your day job, being in a band is not your fucking occupation. It's just a dumb hobby that no one is impressed by. It's like if someone asked me what I do and I said "I play video games and bitch about shit on the internet." Yes, I wish that was my job, but it's not. It's funny how people who are in good and/or successful bands tend to be the ones who don't feel the need to bring it up at every possible opportunity.

Even worse is the girlfriend of the guy who's in a shitty little local band - the vapid scene princess who looks like a rejected American Apparel ad and lives vicariously through the non-accomplishments of her talentless boyfriend. For as many times as I've talked to a guy who can't wait to mention that he's in a band, I've also talked to girls who can't wait to mention that they're dating someone who's in a band. Like, I'm introduced and I say, "How's it going?" and her response is "Oh, not much, I was just over at the studio where my boyfriend is recording." Translation: "My boyfriend stands on a stage at small, half-empty clubs and plays an instrument, and because I'm inexplicably drawn to that I'm overlooking the fact that he can't support himself with his wait staff job at Fred's, and that he's a burnout heroin addict who cheats on me with herpes-infested Hollywood sluts, and he barely qualifies as having a tenth grade education! But none of that matters because he's in a BAND and that means something to the shallow, bottom-feeding social parasites I call my friends!" Wow. Color me impressed.

Okay, sorry, that was a bit of a tangent. The point is that my party was starting to fill up with unbearable douchebags, and I was trying to get some of them to leave when a couple of my friends told me that some girls were upstairs in my office doing coke, and they wouldn't stop - so I stormed up there to investigate, and found the door to my office locked from the inside. I banged on the door and yelled, and after a moment it opened, revealing several girls who I didn't know gathered around a white dust stain on my glass office desk where a great deal of cocaine had presumably just been ingested. I told them to get the fuck out, and I didn't appreciate them A) coming up to my office without my permission, and B) bringing drugs in my house and getting them all over my furniture. They grumbled sheepishly and headed downstairs. I told them I was going to call the cops if they didn't leave.

I have a very strong distaste for cocaine. I find it a vile, dirty substance that corrupts personalities and destroys lives. I don't want to do it, I don't want to be around it, I don't want to be around people who are doing it... I don't want it in my life in any way, shape, or form. I've watched it destroy far too many lives of people around me to offer anything other than condemnation of it at this point. I don't think you're even slightly cool if you do it, I think you're sad. And that anyone could think it's even remotely okay to bring it into a complete stranger's house and spread it out all over his furniture in a room they've entered without permission is completely beyond my understanding. They couldn't even just do it in the bathroom like normal cokeheads. So when I saw the girls still at my party a little while later, after having already asked them to leave, I had to resort to humiliation to get them out. Coke is, after all, the drug that everyone does but no one talks about - so you can imagine they were none too pleased when I pointed at them from across the room, shouted at the top of my lungs and announced to everyone, "HEY LOOK, IT'S THE COKEHEADS! THOSE GIRLS WERE DOING COKE UP IN MY ROOM! THEY LOCKED THE DOOR TO MY OFFICE AND SPREAD IT OUT ALL OVER MY DESK AND SNORTED UP A SHITLOAD OF IT! ISN'T THAT COOL? BE SURE TO TELL THEM HOW COOL YOU THINK THAT IS!!"

It appeared to be working, as they scowled at me and started heading for the door. Then, one of them came up to me, furious, and said, "Hey, we're leaving, okay? I don't appreciate you humiliating my friends like that!"
and so I said: "Really?? Well I don't appreciate you and your friends going into my office without permission and doing coke in there!"
and she said: "What the fuck do you expect? It's a party, of course people are going to be doing drugs!"
and I said: "Well it's MY party, and I don't want anyone doing coke off of my furniture! It's fucking disrespectful and disgusting!"
and she screamed "FUCK YOU!" and grabbed a nearby glass bottle and threw it at me as hard as she could, then started running off.

It would seem that I'm some sort of magnet for glass bottles. People just really like to attack me with them. This time, however, the girl missed, and instead hit Tamar - an innocent bystander - in the shoulder. Who the fuck does that? Seriously, she could have given someone a concussion, or broken someone's nose. That is utterly insane behavior. By this time, of course, everyone at the party was watching the incident unfold. I stormed after the girl, screaming at her that she was out of her fucking mind. A couple other people were chasing her too. She ran out towards the street with her friends, and shouted back at me - this is the best - "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?? DO YOU KNOW WHO MY FATHER IS??" She actually said that. Verbatim. The most retarded Hollywood cliche in the book. I and everyone at the party roared in laughter as she disappeared down the street. I find myself forced to say this far more often than I'd like, but it's once again appropriate: "Only in LA."

Since then we've found out that the girl's name is Alia Intably, and as a public service I would like to warn everyone in Los Angeles to stay away from her, as she is dangerous and has been known to attack people violently - Tamar's shoulder is still sore from the incident. I never did find out who her father is, but I hope he finds out about this, as I'm sure regardless of who he is he wouldn't condone his daughter's reprehensible behavior.

After that bit of drama, the number of weird strangers invading my home continued to grow, until I could take no more and had to shout out "ATTENTION EVERYBODY! YOU PROBABLY DON'T KNOW WHO I AM, BUT THIS IS ACTUALLY MY HOUSE YOU'RE IN RIGHT NOW, AND MOST OF YOU ARE BEING EXTREMELY DISRESPECTFUL OF IT! SO ANYONE WHO DOES NOT KNOW MY FIRST AND LAST NAME, PLEASE GET THE FUCK OUT IMMEDIATELY!" Slowly but surely, it worked.

What a pain in the ass. At least it got better when the crowd thinned out to my actual friends. Next time I'm having my own party with only people I actually know in attendance. And I'm having a guest list. And a bouncer at the door to enforce it. A midget bouncer. A really buff midget bouncer. With a top hat. And a laser gun.

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Friday, November 18, 2005subscribe to demonbaby

On the Subjects of Normal People, My Hatred of Sports, and Harvesting Paris Hilton's Organs

[Currently Listening To: Wilco - Kicking Television: Live In Chicago]

Everyone has their own personal Hell. Some situation, fictional or otherwise, which is uniquely unbearable to them. I think I, as someone growing exponentially less tolerant of most of the people in the world, have a great many personal Hells, and the other night I found myself in a classic one.

It was saturday night in the faux-French city of Montreal, Canada. For those of you unaware, Montreal is part of the Quebec province, which has decided that, contrary to the rest of Canada, it is going to pretend to be French. It doesn't look like France - it still just looks like Canada, which looks like America only newer and whiter. But everyone speaks French. Everything is written in French. Except that the rest of Canada speaks English, and everyone in Quebec speaks English in addition to French, which means that almost everything is written out in both languages. It's idiotic, and completely unnecessary. It's kind of like going to Indiana and finding that everyone speaks Japanese. You're not French. Get over it.

Anyway, it was saturday night, and my friend Brett and I were attempting to find something fun to do. We seemed to be in kind of a lame touristy part of town, so our only lead was a friend of ours who was meeting some other friends at a bar near our hotel. In a completely unfamiliar city, at least it was a start. The bar was called MacDougal's, or O'Brien's, or McGillycutty's, or some other trying-too-hard Irish pub name, and I could tell the second we walked in that I hated it. It looked like any other Americanized Irish pub, but it had the atmosphere of my most dreaded of watering holes: a sports bar. I hate hate hate sports bars, largely because I hate the people who inhabit them: I affectionately refer to them as "normal people." You know the ones. You might be one. There are millions and millions of them. Bland, uncreative, worker bee types who demand little from life and receive little in return. People who sit in a cubicle all day only to come home to sit in front of their television. Who live their lives vicariously through sitcom characters. Who watch "Everybody Loves Raymond" and laugh because the laugh track tells them it's funny. People who have no use for art. Who like music that the radio tells them is good, and listen to it quietly in the background. Big Dave Matthews fans, or whatever else is safe and pleasant. Nothing too challenging. People who wear the same clothes as everyone else. Mall shoppers. The Gap. Old Navy. Chain restaurants. SUVs. People Magazine. Suits. Ties. Stock reports. The status quo. Nine to five. Monday through friday. Suburbia. Golf. People who open a newspaper and reach for the sports page first. People who are the most excited and alive when watching a complete stranger kick a ball over a line on television. Empty vessels, waiting to be told what to do. TV will tell you what's entertaining. The radio will tell you what good music is. Advertisements will tell you what you want. The mall will tell you what to wear. Society will tell you how to live your life. Go to college, get a stable job, sit at a desk, sit in traffic, sit in front of the TV, sleep, have some coffee, sit down and read the sports page, sit in traffic, have some more coffee, sit at a desk, repeat, repeat, repeat, retire, die. No variance. No risks. No creativity. No personality. Never deviate from the norm. Never dig beneath the surface. Nothing dangerous or unusual. Caffeinated faux-happiness. Comfort. Stability. Consistency. Repetition. Blandness. Just a straight line. A flat line. And then you're dead.

I know these people well because I went to high school with about two thousand of them. Silver spoon suburban kids, all with the same Ambercrombie clothes, the same rich parents, the same vacant personalities. Attack of the clones. Beautiful. Wealthy. Popular. Idiots. I see those same people from time to time when I'm back home, and it's strangely satisfying to watch them settle into their lives of quiet misery. The star quarterback who had everything in his safe little high school world, suddenly found he wasn't quite good enough to make the college football team. Without the football team, his 2.0 GPA and gradeschool reading level couldn't get him into the good university. Community college. Business degree. He gave up, and got a job with Dad's company, and married the prettiest girl in school, who's now fat and bitter that her dreams of being a veterinarian were shoved aside so she could drive their two point five kids to soccer practice while her husband bones his secretary. But none of this is to say that I was one of those bitter lonely kids in high school who got picked on by the jocks, and was about to go fucking Columbine on everyone. On the contrary, I had a great time in high school. I had a lot of fun, a lot of friends, and nothing but great memories. I did, however, regard 95 percent of my fellow students as complete fucking tools. It's not bitterness so much as self-righteousness.

Anyway. Back in Flappynuts McFannybucket's Irish Pub, or whatever the fuck it was called, we squeezed through the ocean of normality and sat down at a small table. The bar was stepping up to the rare challenge of offending all of my senses simultaneously. It smelled of old beer, with an occasional au de urine wafting in from the bathroom. Someone was blowing cigarette smoke directly in my face. It was noisy - a cacophony of loud conversations and television noise. Everyone was drinking light beer with their eyes glued to one of several large television sets on the wall. The game was on. Yes, the game. "The game" is a strange phenomena in the world of sports where no matter where you are, you can refer to a particular sporting event simply as "the game" and a sports fan will know exactly which game you are talking about. This term can be upgraded in occasions when said game is extremely important, whereupon it is then referred to as "the big game." In this case, the big game was hockey - Montreal vs. Toronto, to be specific. There were allegiances to both teams present in the bar, but mostly we seemed to be amongst Montreal natives, as was evident from a massive uproar every time something good happened to Montreal's team. When a goal was scored, nearly everyone in the bar leaped up, threw fists in the air, screamed loudly, clanked their beers together, hugged, high-fived. Brett and I, meanwhile, had no idea what was going on. Eventually we just sort of got into it, and started shouting along with them every time the burst of excitement occurred. We'd turn on the best phony machismo we could, and shout in deepened voices "FUCK YEAH!!! GO TEAM!!! THAT'S HOW YOU PLAY THE FUCKIN' GAME!!!" or "YES!! TOUCHDOWN!!!" or "HOMERUN!! FUCK MY NIPPLES ARE GETTING HARD!!" or "AAAAAAA THAT WAS FUCKIN' AWESOME!!! GODDAMNIT!!! JACK ME OFF, BRETT!! FUCKING JACK ME OFF!!!" We quickly drew ire from the mongoloids around us.

By now you may have gathered that I cannot stand sports. For my entire life, it has been something that's always felt like a battle I had to fight against the rest of the world. As a child, you were just sort of expected to play sports. Little league. Girls' soccer. Basketball at the YMCA. In white upper-middle-class suburbia, every kid played a sport or three. Except me. I was the loner only-child with not even a shred of interest in organized athletics. I wanted to draw comic books, and have adventures in my backyard, and play Nintendo. I wonder sometimes if there was an exact moment in my youth when my father realized that his only son was going to be an art fag rather than a jock. I wonder how much that crushed some piece of his soul. He was, after all, a sports fanatic who wanted nothing more than to have a son he could coach - and it was in this interest that he once and only once talked me into joining a team - the basketball team, when I was in kindergarten. Just because he wanted to be the coach, and you had to have a child on the team in order to do so. I was his only hope. And so it was that my father's dream was exchanged for his son's misery. I was easily the worst player on the team - a bumbling little pudgeball who spent most of the time sitting on the bench - although I was far more content there. From the bench, at least, I could watch the game and imagine tentacles coming out of the floor and squeezing the guts out of the kids on the team I particularly disliked. Or a meteor crashing through the ceiling and incinerating them all. I would hold onto the bench and imagine gravity suddenly reversing, causing everyone on the court to fall to their death, gored violently by the rusty ceiling beams. I was a strange child. Imagination was my sport. I went through gradeschool as the kid who couldn't climb the rope in gym class, but was widely known as the best artist in school. That saved me from being a loser, but I always wondered why creativity was valued so much less than sporting ability. By the time I got to high school, and the art and music programs were heavily underfunded while they built the football team a new field, I began to realize that it's simply the way of the normal people, and it's never going to change. They value entertainment designed for simpletons, and they outnumber us creative types a hundred to one. Sports are, after all, the common language of normal people. It unites them. It gives them a purpose. It provides them with accomplishments to live vicariously through. A true sports fan will feel like he has personally succeeded on some level when "his" team - a group of complete strangers with athletic skill he will never possess - wins a game. Sports fans shout "we did it!" when their team wins. No. No, no, no. YOU did not do anything. YOU sat on your fat ass, drank beer and ate pretzels, while the game was won by athletes who do not know you and are in no way connected to you.

I have nothing against people who play sports - rather, I have all the respect in the world for them, since I've never had any athletic abilities of my own. Instead, I despise sports fanatics, and moreover society in general for placing sports on such a tremendous social pedestal. Why are sports figures so much more highly regarded than brilliant scientists, doctors, authors, artists, or philosophers? Why do we worship these mongoloids who run around knocking each other over for a living? Why do retard rapists like Kobe Bryant make tens of millions of dollars a year, while public school teachers struggle to pay for books for their students? No one should make that much money. No one. Particularly not idiot basketball players who read at a fourth grade level and can't think of anything better to do with their riches than buy a seventh Hummer or a third pool for their fifth mansion. Our world needs a system of checks and balances for wealth. A panel of highly-educated officials to determine who deserves the money they've been given. Not just sports figures - the entertainment industry is rife with guilty parties: Julia Roberts, you don't deserve that much money. We're sorry the idiot masses deemed you someone of value, but they were wrong. We're giving half of your net worth to hard-working families who are struggling to get by. 50 Cent, we're taking every penny you have ever earned. Bragging about being a former crack dealer who's been shot nine times and then grunting into a microphone does not make you deserving of your wealth. Sorry MTV tricked everyone into thinking you were talented. Paris Hilton, we're very sorry. Really, we apologize, but we're going to have to take all of your money, and also we're going to have to kill you and harvest any of your vital organs not too damaged from substance abuse. Again, we apologize on behalf of the people of America. They're not the smartest bunch. They let you believe that you're significant or deserving of attention on any level whatsoever. There are millions of people far more deserving of your money, your organs, and the air that you breathe.

We got the hell out of that bar as fast as we could - and just in the nick of time: As we were stepping out, the entire room exploded with cheers and shouting - apparently signifying Montreal's victory. A number of fratboy types lurking outside the pub perked up with interest, and asked us "who won the game?" Montreal, we told them, without being entirely certain that it was true. "FUCK YEAH!!!" they shouted, and gave each other high fives. "WE'RE THE FUCKIN' WINNERS!!! FUCKIN' RIGHT!!!" You sure are, guys. You sure are.

Why are people so fucking stupid? I could start a whole new tangent on that subject alone, but I've rambled enough for today. Time to get on an airplane.


Monday, February 14, 2005subscribe to demonbaby

An Open Letter To The Guy I Saw Walking Out Of Albertson's At Approximately 11:45 Last Night:

Dear Guy I Saw Walking Out Of Albertson's At Approximately 11:45 Last Night,

You, sir, are a douche.

Look how fucking proud of yourself you are, with your tucked in shirt, and your shiny brown homo shoes, and your side-parted hair. Look at the big smile on your face. Look how good you feel about that utterly generic six dollar bouquet of store-bought red roses you're holding, that you just purchased 15 minutes before Valentine's Day, at Albertson's. Yeah, wear that smug smile with pride, bucko. You're a fucking winner.

What a great boyfriend you are. Congratulations, you fucking dicksponge, you put the same amount of effort into showing your love for someone as you do when you buy a fucking bottle of laundry detergent. What a lucky girl she is, to have someone like you. Although to be fair, she must be a fucking shitbag too. How tragically insecure do you have to be to accept such a meaningless gesture as a token of affection? How utterly fucking desperate are you to cling on to anything that you can dress up to look even remotely like love? How pathetic do you have to be to even allow your significant other to even consider for a moment that it might be even remotely acceptable to show up with a cheap fucking last-minute cliche and look you in the eyes and tell you it means something?

If you need a fucking greeting card company to tell you when to have a special day with the person you care about, and when that "specialness" is reduced to cheap mass-produced bullshit, and if that actually makes you feel good on any level whatsoever, you might as well wrap your head in the plastic Rite-Aid bag your heartfelt gift arrived in and fucking end it all.

You might as well buy your girlfriend a toilet plunger for Valentine's Day. It's the same amount of thought and effort involved, it's just a different aisle at the supermarket. Actually, there might even be more thought in a toilet plunger, because at least every other fucking turd doesn't get his girlfriend one at the last minute and think it makes him a good boyfriend. At least she might actually get some use out of a toilet plunger, after she gets dysentery and spends all night pissing rusty water from the cheap fucking heart-shaped box of shit chocolates you gave her.

The point I'm making, Guy Who I Saw Walking Out Of Albertson's At Approximately 11:45 Last Night, is that Valentine's Day is bullshit and you're a fucking turd for thinking that following some cliched societal obligation qualifies as caring. And no, I'm not bitter because I'm lonely on Valentine's Day, like most people. I do have someone to spend it with, and you know what we're going to do? We're going to go to the diner and make fun of people like you, like we always do, and then we're going to sit on my couch like we do every monday and watch "24" and drink cheap wine. And you know what? It's going to be pretty fucking rad. And you and your miserable, insecure girlfriend can have a fantastically hollow evening together at some douchey restaurant while you attempt to force romance and feign contentness and hope that the ten dollar stuffed bear you bought her is enough to convince her you aren't banging your secretary. And you can rest assured that if I ever get a girl flowers, it won't be on Valentine's Day. And they won't be from fucking Albertson's.



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Thursday, January 27, 2005subscribe to demonbaby

Bad Indie Rock Vs. George Bush (Guess Who Wins?) Also: Conor Oberst Is A Vagina.

Since MySpace has begun posting group bulletins on its homepage, and since apparently I'm a member of about eighty different anti-Bush groups, I have begun to notice a daily barrage of "Bush sucks!" blabber posted by pseudo-activist 21 year olds whose idea of "protesting" involves little more than preaching to the MySpace choir by passing around anti-war catch phrases to their digital friends. Among these posts, one in particular caught my attention. One that is so laughably pathetic, I couldn't help calling your attention to it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bush Agenda has new enemy, and it's...

This guy:

That's right. We're saved. Today, as I was reading the news from Iraq, wondering if there was any hope left, I stumbled upon the following MySpace bulletin from a stunningly mediocre New York indie band called Rockets And Cars:

Protest Bush!

If you are against the Bush agenda, check out our site, and listen to the song "The Protest." We wrote it in response to the Iraqi invasion early in 2003, hoping it would help rally up national resistance, and help turn America into a more democratic state. Well, Kerry lost, and we still have no voice. Hopefully this song will catch on, and incite some resistance against Bush's stupidity.

We walk the city streets every day, and play what we see.

The Beatles promised you a revolution. We're carrying out phase I.

Rockets and Cars

Yes, oh yes. Hope has arrived. I'm not sure if it's the brazen arrogance or the hilarious delusion that offends me most about this bulletin, but it definitely holds no shortage of either. Yes, you self-righteous, fire-crotched, tiny leather jacket wearing dipshit; if there was ever a way to "rally up national resistance," it's through another shitty song by yet another derivative New York® band that no one listens to. Certainly, if there was ever a way to turn the heads of Bush loyalists, the message should come from a group of snotty little "ironic" hipster twats shouting a fourth rate Clash song which effectively paints a protest rally as a social event where trustfund babies can smoke cigarettes, watch their favorite local bands play, show off their new anti-Bush shirt that they spent all afternoon silkscreening from a faded, 15 year old rock tee they paid $60 for at Search & Destroy, and regurgitate half-truths they saw on "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "The Daily Show," which was as much effort as they put into researching the situation. I'm sure the Republicans are trembling in their loafers.

But who knows, maybe I'm just being cynical. Maybe, as they suggest, "the song will catch on, and incite some resistance against Bush's stupidity." That's a good point. I'm sure the crowd at The Continental at 8:00 on monday night who are only suffering through your band because they they thought happy hour was still going on - I'm sure they're really on the fence about Bush, and your song playing in the background as they try to shout over it to order a drink is really going to open their eyes. I'm sure both of the people who bought your record were huge Republicans until they heard those inspired words of yours: "I'll see you down at the protest." Ah, now that's the voice of a disaffected youth! And John Lennon, were he with us today, God rest his soul, would be nothing short of elated to pass on his vision of a revolution to such a worthy group of well-informed activists and - might I add - talented musicians.

What all of this brings to mind is the general misconception throughout MySpace - and youth in general - in regards to protesting, what it is, and what makes it effective. Young people like to think that having an obvious and often ill-informed opinion and sharing it with like-minded individuals makes them activists. Guess what? It doesn't. Posting a bulletin to your fellow anti-Bush MySpacers with some funny quotes about Republicans does not mean you've contributed to a social movement. Starting the 900th "BUSH SUCKS!!!111" MySpace group does not qualify as civil disobedience. Passing around a chain-letter petition of names of people who oppose the war in Iraq is not a progressive form of dissention. It's not even remotely effective. And, most of all, jumping on the indie rock "I wrote an anti-Bush song, look how proactive I am" bandwagon and advertising it on MySpace is certainly fucking not, under any circumstances, even the most meager form of protest. You want to make a difference? You genuinely care about all of this? Give up on your self-righteous high school wet dream of "being in a band" and devote your time to organized protest groups who are smarter than you, and actually know how to make a difference on a large scale. Oh, what's that? You don't want to do that? You'd rather just be in a band and voice your dissent through songs no one wants to hear? Well then write songs about haircuts and cigarettes like every other shallow garage rock rip-off, and shut the fuck up.

Okay, that's off my chest. Now it's time to talk about this guy:

Conor fucking Oberst. I hate this guy. I hate his stupid face, and I hate his army of weeping teenage girls going fucking Beatlemania over some sissy-ass, 90lb. little poetry-writing vagina. But mostly, I hate his fucking music. Bright Eyes can slurp my fucking ballsweat, it sucks so Goddamn hard. Conor Oberst is not "the Bob Dylan of our generation." He's a whiny little emo bedwetter faggot scribbling in his diary about how he couldn't find a date to the prom. Fuuuuuuck offffff.

Okay, maybe what I hate the most is the unending avalanche of respect this twatburger manages to command from every corner of the music world, just because a bunch of suburban high school kids with stupid haircuts were dumb enough to worship him and his subsequent tidal wave of testosterone-less crybaby imitators contributing to the pussyfication of indie music. If you're a music critic, somehow you're just not allowed to say bad things about Conor "Please Insert It In My Butt, But Be Gentle" Oberst, and what reminded me of that was reading a vomit-inducing page of shameless Conor-worship in this week's issue of The Onion.

Now, before I go any further, I should say that I love The Onion. I adore it. Satire is the most difficult form of comedy, and they do it flawlessly, spot-on, week after week. It's some of the smartest shit out there. However, their music and movie reviews are some of the most pretentious bullshit I've ever read. Consider this quote I dug up from a recent Onion movie review of The Machinist:
Like far too many contemporary neo-noirs, The Machinist feels hermetic, overly deterministic, and secondhand, less an honest reaction to the cruel absurdity of existence than a shallow attempt to ape the claustrophobic, fashionable despair of post-war noirs. Scott Kosar's script and Anderson's direction fetishize despair in ways that border on comic. The copy of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot sitting in Bale's apartment qualifies as light reading for the film; if Bale were ever to take Sánchez-Gijón up on her offer of a movie date, they'd no doubt take in a double feature of The Sorrow And The Pity and Shoah.

What the fuck? Who the fuck writes like that? Oh wow, you took "History Of Film 101" AND you own a thesaurus? I'm really fucking impressed! Movie reviews aren't meant to be exercises in linguistic self-appreciation, you smug fucking dicks. Anyway, my point is that it didn't at all come as a surprise that The Onion's talented crew of critical wordsmiths had nothing but big sloppy orgasms over Bright Eyes' latest two albums. Yeah, that's right, Conor is just SUCH an important artist that he needs to release TWO albums at the same time! Oh Conor, you're so fucking brilliant! Shower me with your genius! Let me spurt my manseed upon you in a glorious emo-gasm of shameless devotion!

This is my favorite line from The Onion's review:
"In its way, the companion record Digital Ash In A Digital Urn is even more exciting. Just as Ryan Adams met the challenge of The Strokes and Interpol by writing his own '80s post-punk record, Oberst responds to The Postal Service's popularity by taking a stab at neo-techno-pop, with a validating guest appearance by Jimmy Tamborello."

Jesus fucking Christ. Hold on a minute. RYAN ADAMS, the most insincere of all New York® retro-post-punk trend-following Wynona Rider boytoys, "MET THE FUCKING CHALLENGE" of The Strokes and Interpol?? You mean the way The Strokes "met the challenge" of a hundred better New York® bands who had already "met the challenge" of a dozen or so far more innovative bands from the late 70's?? You mean how Interpol "met the challenge" of Joy Division?? Why is it that snotty music critics are the first to call out bands who rip off better bands, UNLESS it's some genre-defying musical genius like Ryan fucking Adams, or an untouchably cool hipster icon like CONOR OBERST, and then somehow it's not a rip-off when he says "Gee, that guy from Death Cab did an electronic emo album, I'd better do that too!" No, of course that's not ripping off. It's "meeting the challenge." You fucking pillow-biting dickbiscuits. Go slurp on Wynona Rider's disease-ridden twat and die of syphilis.

Alright. I'm done.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005subscribe to demonbaby

I will never, ever, ever watch Napoleon fucking Dynamite.

If you are reading this right now, there is a ninety percent chance that at some point over the past year - at least once - you have told someone: "You have to see Napoleon Dynamite!" I know this to be true. Don't deny it. Think back, and you'll remember. Remember right after you saw it, how utterly hilarious it was? Remember how hard you laughed in the theatre? Remember how it was the FUNNIEST MOVIE EVER?? Remember how you and all of your friends talked about it for days and days, recounting your favorite quotes and scenes? Hell, maybe you even went back to see it again! I mean, after all, it was the BEST MOVIE EVER CREATED IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE, right?? But wait. Do you also remember the strange sadness and overwhelming confusion you experienced when you encountered someone who - dare I say it - had not yet seen Napoleon Dynamite, God's Gift To Cinematic Comedy? Who didn't rush out to the theatres at the first signs of overwhelming buzz amongst early-twenties urban bohemian white people? Who was living out their miserable days unenlightened by the orgasmic comic brilliance that is NAPOLEON DYNAMITE?? What could be wrong with this person? What malice darkened their bitter soul? Certainly, they must have just not heard HOW FUCKING AMAZINGLY GOOD THIS MOVIE IS. So you know what you did? You told them. Oh, how you told them. "OH MY GOD, YOU HAVEN'T SEEN NAPOLEON DYNAMITE? IT'S SOOOOOOO FUNNY!!! YOU HAVE TO SEE IT!!!"

Now, fair reader, I would credit you with enough intellect to have figured out which side of the above dialogue I found myself on, over and over again during 2004. Yes, it's true: I never saw Napoleon Dynamite. There, I said it. And why would I possibly have avoided THE FUNNIEST MOVIE EVER CONCEIVED BY MAN? Well read on, dear friends, and I will tell you.

At first I just hadn't gotten around to it. I intended to see it. It didn't look very funny - I mean, that guy's face alone pisses me off. But indeed, I had read numerous times that it well worth my time at the cinema, and so I intended to give it a go. But then, something strange happened. Someone told me how Napoleon Dynamite was "SOOOOOOO FUNNY!!! YOU HAVE TO SEE IT!!!" Okay, I said. I'd like to go see it. And then someone else told me that Napoleon Dynamite was "SOOOOOOO FUNNY!!! YOU HAVE TO SEE IT!!!" Yes, yes I've been meaning to see it. I've just been busy. That same day, I was talking to someone else about movies. They asked me if I'd seen Napoleon Dynamite. No, I haven't yet. I've heard it's good, though. "OH MY GOD, YOU HAVEN'T SEEN NAPOLEON DYNAMITE? I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT YET!! IT'S SOOOOOOO FUNNY!!! YOU HAVE TO SEE IT!!!" And that was it. That was the last straw. When the eight hundred and seventeenth person yelled at me about how fucking funny it was and how lacking my pitiful existence was without some curly-haired, tie-wearing fagtard bringing me cinematic cheer, I officially declared my intent to never, ever, under any circumstances, see Napoleon fucking Dynamite. Because you know what? I bet it's not even that funny. I bet it sucks sweaty goat balls. It's probably one of those "quirky" movies that you go into determined to enjoy, because everyone else says it's so good. I bet I'd hate every minute of it. I hate the name, I hate the main character, I hate "VOTE FOR PEDRO" - whatever the fuck that means. I hate seeing it listed (usually in capital letters, followed by numerous exclamation marks) at the top of everybody's favorite films list on their MySpace profiles. I hate that it's out on DVD now so I have to see a wave of new fucking advertisements for it - some of them right here on MySpace - reminding me how ridiculously far outside of pop culture's inner circle I am for not having sat through 82 minutes of some four-eyed boner's wacky misadventures.

So starting today, I am standing up for the few and the proud who have refused to see Napoleon Dynamite. I am officially making it WAY cooler to have NOT seen this movie. If you've seen this movie, you're so lame. You just do what everyone else does. You're such a conformist. That's not cool. You know what IS cool? Being different, man! Being an outsider! NOT seeing Napoleon Dynamite!

So today I have founded a MySpace Group for the very very few of us - the elite, if you will - who can still claim to be truly pure. It is called P.A.N.D.A. - The Proudly Anti Napoleon Dynamite Association. Please visit our site, and read our mission statement, and ask yourself if you're cool enough to join. And if you are, please affix the following P.A.N.D.A. Badge Of Honour to your MySpace profile:

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Tuesday, August 17, 2004subscribe to demonbaby

Fuck, I hate fat people

So I've been holding back on this one, because somewhere there's a point where my mean-spirited nature takes a turn into downright cruelty. But when my dear friend and kindred spirit Tiffany brought to my attention the mini epidemic of people being sooooo morbidly obese that they become GRAFTED TO THEIR COUCHES... Well, I have to speak up.

And I'll say it, right now: I hate fat people. Fuck 'em. And I'm not talking about you, girl-reading-this-who-is-twenty-pounds-overweight-and-just-got-offended-and/or-self-conscious (although, now that we're on the subject, you probably should hit up the treadmill). I'm talking about these like, three and four hundred pound motherfuckers. The kind of morbidly obese bohemoths that only the great U-S of A, home of Wal-Mart and McDonald's, can produce in mass quantity. The kind whose greasy lard rolls slurch over into my seat on an airplane. The kind who blame everyone but their fat fucking selves for all their weight problems. And I wouldn't bring this up except that, as I said, people are now SO fat, and SO lazy, that they become one with their couches. This woman was on her couch for SIX YEARS, not even getting up to take a shit. Yeah. That's right.

And then there's this guy, who weighed over 1000 lbs. when he was finally forklifted off of his couch to a nearby hospital:

Look at that dude's fucking portrait. That is a fucking masterpiece.

Now, I would take this opportunity to write a witty and poignant piece about the laziness and overindulgence of American culture, but I think that simply transcribing the conversation I had with Tiffany after she showed me these articles would better serve all interests:


Me: AAAAAAAAAAAAA!! That picture!!

Tiffany: You love it. Stop your cryin'.

Me: He looks like he wants to touch me where my bathing suit covers...

...and then, like, eat a puppy.

Tiffany: OK, so I know I'm fat. But, like, once your weight starts with a "3"? Don't you think "Maybe I should stop eating for a little while?" Or even when you finally can start telling people your weight in tonnage, for real? i.e. "I weigh a QUARTER-TON."

Me: From the article: " A group known as the League of Human Dignity helped arrange for Deuel to be driven to a local livestock scale, where he could be weighed." What an incredibly dignifying thing for them to do: Taking a fat guy to a fucking livestock scale. "Hi, we're here from the League of Human Dignity to roll you onto a forklift so we can weigh you like cattle."

Tiffany: And that they took credit for it. Nice going, Human Dignitarians.

Me: Awww, he was only 300 lbs. short of the world record! That may seem like a lot, but not when you're already rockin' the quadruple digits.

Tiffany: Right. if you're already 1000 lbs, why not just fucking go for it? I mean, make your mark in the world, dude. BE the fattest guy ever.

Me: Yeah. Shoot for the fucking stars, man. You're probably a couple weeks away from the coronary-to-end-all-coronaries, anyway. Go out in style.

He looks like Uncle Fester with boobs... BIG fucking boobs.

Tiffany: Seriously. I mean, I don't have cleavage like that, and I rock DDs, for shit's sake. Also, I'm a GODDAMN GIRL and should have boobs. Manboobs are always a "no" in my book.

Me: Those defy manboobs, dude. Those things practically have zip codes. He's probably in violation of some zoning laws with those fuckers.

You know, I would guess that each one of those weighs as much as me.

Tiffany: Yes, my little manorexic, I'm sure they do.

Me: Oh, and of course, he blames his obesity "partly on genetics." Yeah, that "part" might have been your first 200 pounds, lardass. I think you can safely blame your own obscene gluttony for the other EIGHT HUNDRED POUNDS.

Tiffany: HA! Yeah, you can't roll out with a half-ton ass and be all, "Oh, I'm big-boned". DINOSAURS are that big-boned, not humans. Get off it, fatty.

Me: I can't get enough of this dude's picture. That EVIL LOOK on his face. It's like it's not good enough just to be so fucking elephantine that you can only be weighed with a livestock scale - you have to get all John Wayne Gacy on us, to boot.

Like, you can see in his eyes that he's thinking about eating a baby. Whole.

Tiffany: That just made me laugh so hard. You are so fucking cruel. It's really beautiful.

Me: Usually if you're really cruel it means you hate yourself, on some level. But I think I fucking rule, so I'm not sure what that's all about.

Tiffany: I think, sir, you just entered yourself into "Tiffy's Profile Quote Hall of Fame".


Monday, August 02, 2004subscribe to demonbaby

M. Night Shyamalan can lick my nut crust.

So, I saw M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" this weekend and I am feeling inspired to express my irritation. If you haven't seen this movie - well, don't. But if you really insist on seeing it, then don't read this review, because it will reveal plot points that you might want to be disappointed by on your own. With that said...

I don't care how many fanboys soak their shorts over him, or how swollen his ego has become, the real honest truth is that M. Night Shamalamadingdong has really only made one good film, and that was "The Sixth Sense." It was a little bit slow, but it had a great mood and great tension and a great ending. It was exceptionally creepy. Every other one of Shammy's films has sucked a stinky nut. "Unbreakable" should have been called "Unwatchable," and "Signs" started out with great potential but then proceeded to insult its audience with ludicrous gaping plot holes wider than Courtney Love's twat cavern, which easily swallowed up the finer moments of Hitchocock-esque suspense.

Still, Shammy has had enough great moments in his movies that I found myself rather looking forward to "The Village." And perhaps this is a case of poor marketing, because it was, quite frankly, advertised as a monster movie, so that's what I went in hoping for. In fact, that is exactly what I was in the mood to see, because there hasn't been a good scary monster movie in a long time.

But alas, I did not get a monster movie. Instead I got one unwanted surprise after another. Surprise! The monsters are guys in costumes. Surprise! There's a dumb fucking ending with a dumb fucking secret. The secret is SO stupid, and SO unrewarding, that it is something you might have thought of earlier while you were trying to guess what the secret would be, but then surmised that, "no, it has to be something better than that." Well. It's not. Two long, slow hours of tedious exposition and approximately three scary moments adds up to an ending SO anticlimactic that it transcends the definition of the word. It almost warrants some kind of award. The M. Night Shamalamadingdong Honorary Anticlimax Award. Of course, he's set the bar so high that no film will ever qualify to win the award, short of a new edit of "Citizen Kane" which ends before you find out who Rosebud is.

To its credit, the film is beautifully shot. The forest looks gorgeously creepy. The suspenseful moments, although painfully few and far between - are indeed scary. But you know what, Shammy? I want fucking monsters. I want big, scary, evil monsters that leap out of the shadows and kill people. That drink the fucking blood of infants, and rape women with phallic tentacles. Violence, gore, murder, horror. What I DON'T want is people in suits. What I DON'T want is a director so concerned with plot twists that he forgets that they should be satisfying rather than irritating. So aware of his reputation that he seems desperate to live up to it rather than to make a good movie, and yet so sure of his genius that he has no qualms about torturing his audience with mind-numbingly slow-paced storytelling.

I'm going to make a movie. It's called "The Village Of Scary Monsters Who Eat Babies And Kill People And Aren't Guys In Suits." It's rated X, for scenes of graphic infant mutilation and violent tentacle rape and kittens exploding. It starts out just like Shammy's movie called "The Village" (minus the tard with the big nose) but it ends in a mindless bloodbath so horrifying that you are provided with vomit bags on the way in. You can't see it unless you bring a doctor's statement that you don't have high blood pressure or other heart conditions. In fact, it's only playing on a TV in some guy's basement in Thailand, because it's banned everywhere else.

Now, would someone please recommend a good monster movie I can watch that will cleanse my palate of pretentious slop?

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Sunday, July 25, 2004subscribe to demonbaby

Yellow candies suck my ass

I hate it when I go for a bag of candy and all the good colors have already been picked over. Today I found myself digging impatiently through a well-pilfered bag of Starburst, holding on to a futile hope of finding one last red one. Knowing somewhere deep inside that it wasn't going to be there, but giving it one more shot anyway. Spelunking a plastic cave for a diamond in the yellow rough. I eventually settled on an orange one, because anything is better than a yellow one. Have you ever noticed how yellow candies are always the last ones left? Fuck yellow candy. It's ALWAYS the shittiest flavor of the lot. Lemon, or worse yet - banana-flavored candy. Banana!

No one likes the yellow ones, no matter what type of candy it is. Skittles, Starburst, Life Savers, whatever. Everyone has a favorite flavor, one color that they always tend to gravitate to. But it's never yellow. And if you're the fucking weirdo who eats the yellow ones first, there's something wrong with you. Beaten as a child, or something. It's not natural. Hell, it's just plain un-American. You know what's yellow? Piss. You know what's not yellow? The fucking AMERICAN FLAG, that's what. Every yellow candy you consume supports terrorism. Terrorists definitely love yellow candies. Evil doers and people who hate freedom, that's who eats fucking yellow candies. I bet Al Qaeda has a fucking hoard of lemon-flavored Starbursts. I bet Afghani Skittles commercials don't say "taste the rainbow," they say "taste the yellow, and like it, bitches." Saddam Hussein bought massive stockpiles of Yellow #5 from Syria, and under his rule the Iraqi people were only allowed to eat yellow candy. Anyone caught with a red Skittle goes straight to the rape room. That fucking tyrant. Our brave coalition forces are bringing huge supplies of red, orange, green - even purple candies to the Iraqi people, and liberating them from the cruel injustices of lemon and banana-flavored confectionaries.

So next time you're driving your Hummer to Wal-Mart and you stop to fill it up with gas for the fifth time this week, and you pick up some candy to top off that double quarter pounder with cheese you devoured earlier... Do your patriotic duty. Don't eat the fucking yellow ones. Because if you eat yellow candy... you dine with Hitler.


Saturday, May 15, 2004subscribe to demonbaby

Obese Trailer Trash, Violent Ass-Raping, and The Keanu Reeves Honorary Wooden Acting Award.

So I got talked into seeing "Troy" tonight. What a truckload of steaming shite that was.

I should start by mentioning that I love movies, all kinds of movies - and generally I'm all up for the big Hollywood epic. Vast landscapes, sweeping orchestras, storybook heroes, impossibly poetic dialogue... the whole lot of it. It's the type of popcorn fun that movies were made for. But with the success of "Lord Of The Rings," everyone is trying to jump on the epic bandwagon. Every egocentric filmmaker wants a piece of the glory, and they're all digging through the history books, looking for an exotic new premise for their bloated, self-indulgent masterpieces. So now we've got an overload of epics, which is bad, because what helps make them epic in the start is that they're only around every so often. It's meant to be quite an event, like a movie you're looking forward to for months. Now there's one every few weeks, and most of them are shit.

So I went in to "Troy" with low expectations, and they were met. Maybe it wouldn't have been as bad if I wasn't in Hicksville USA, also known as the wretchedly miserable suburbs of New Orleans, Louisiana. Rarely have I been to a geographic area where so consistently my movie-going experiences have been ruined by the other theatre patrons. And this presents a tremendous problem for me. You see, I love seeing movies in a packed theatre. The atmosphere of an audience is what the cinema is all about. However, I also utterly despise, from the bottom of my heart, people who haven't figured out the very basic concept of SHUTTING THE FUCK UP. Which is more or less everyone down here in the dirty south.

So this time, in Louisiana's continuing efforts to ruin every movie I see, I enjoyed the company of a tremendous beast of a woman who was sitting directly behind me. She was a fucking cow, absolutely massive, and looked fresh out of the trailer park. She was apparently by herself, and sweaty rolls of lard were spilling off into the empty seats beside her. From the very first second of the film, she was launching a violent assault on her extra super size two gallon bag of heavily buttered popcorn. I almost felt bad for the little kernels of popped corn, they didn't stand a fucking chance. I was imaginging them, all huddled together in their bag, amongst them the bodies of those who had already drowned in the tidal wave of chemical butter topping she had poured on them. Terrified of what might happen next, they let out shrill cries of horror as the shadow of her sweaty sausage fingers draped over them, and what must have looked like some hideous blob monster from worlds beyond swooped down and snatched them up from their home and tossed them into a dark slimy pit where the giant yellowed mashers of some infernal machine crushed their frail, butter-greased bodies into tiny little pieces.

I am not a fan of loud chewing noises, and I am particularly not a fan of them when they're louder then the film I'm making my best efforts to enjoy. She was chomping away at it with her mouth wide open, and it was so loud that it felt like she was inches away from me, crunching her helpless popcorn directly into my inner ear. I could practically feel her humid stinkbreath painting the side of my face with condensation. But I dealt with it, and after the initial popcorn assault she slowed down a bit as she got into the film, and reduced her intake to a somehow more infuriating pace of one kernal at a time. What made this unbearable was that every time she'd reach into the bag to pull out her next victim, she would rustle it in a way that produced sound far louder than any paper bag should ever be able to make. I mean, you probably could have heard it from the back of the theatre, and I was right the fuck in front of her. And it was stadium seating, so guess where my head was? Practically in her fat fucking lap. Right at ear level with the noisest bag on earth. Literally she must have been attempting to eat the bag from the bottom up, because it sounded like she was burrowing her blubbery hand all the way to the bottom each time she dove in to retrieve a new kernel. And, after every few bites, she would - somehow very loudly - wipe the salt and grease off of her fat fucking mouth WITH HER SHIRT, and then grunt and wheeze a bit, as if she was having trouble breathing. It was absolutely grotesque.

I'm a bit of a nazi about movie-going. Part of it is that I genuinely enjoy going to see films, and it infuriates me when someone makes an effort to ruin it for me. But the other - perhaps more significant part - is that a bad movie-going experience tears away at my faith in humanity. It is absolutely beyond me, on every level, how anyone could be so ignorant, rude, selfish, and utterly lacking in any sense of self restraint, as to be noisy during a film. It's a basic concept, we learn it in preschool: Quiet time. This is quiet time. For two measly hours of your life, you have to shut up. It's that simple. 120 minutes of keeping your fucking mouth closed. 7,200 seconds of restraining from voicing your every inane reaction to what you're seeing on the screen. It's not your living room. You're not by yourself, watching a DVD. You're in a room full of other people, who are trying to enjoy the film.

Shut. The fuck. Up.

A great many people have not got this figured out. These are the people, I presume, who got sent to the corner a lot during quiet time, because they simply couldn't not talk. It wasn't something they could get their little pea-brained heads around. It was inconceivable that for any length of time, they were not allowed to try and draw attention to themselves. For one miniscule portion of their life they had to concede to the idea that there are other people in the world besides them. For once, they had to not be the center of the universe. And they couldn't do it. They failed. So when this mentality manifests itself during a movie - particularly during a movie I'm excited to see - I'm a complete asshole about it. I'll be the guy screaming "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" during a movie, when someone on the opposite end of the theatre is talking. I'm the guy who will complain to the theatre staff if a couple "SHUT THE FUCK UP!"s prove fruitless. I cannot stand having my experience ruined by some ignorant twat.

So as we approached thirty minutes into "Troy," and fatty was still rustling away without so much as a second's rest, I finally snapped. I turned around, and thrust my own bag of popcorn up into the air, about eye level with her, and rustled it around as violently as I possibly could, spilling popcorn onto the floor as I did so, and shooting her the meanest pair of evil eyes I could muster up. Amazingly, she stopped rustling. For about five minutes. When she resumed, I spun around and glared at her again, right in the eyes with a very genuine look which said, in no uncertain terms, "I am going to slit your fucking lard-padded throat and stuff the bleeding wound with the rest of your popcorn if you make one more Goddamn rustling noise, you bloated fucking whale of a woman." And she, looking back at me, lowered her popcorn bag slowly to the ground, the way a criminal would lower his weapon when surrounded by the cops. My message was clear, and she looked actually quite afraid of me.

I am not a threatening person. I am thin, and pale, and metrosexual enough that you might on occasion mistake me for being gay. I am far from a tough guy. However, intrude upon my movie-going experience and I will become possessed by some form of unholy demon. One of these days, it's going to get me stabbed or something.

Actually, one of these days I'm going to make a members-only movie theatre. You have to fill out a lengthy application to get in. There will be background checks. You will need to list references. If you're accepted, you will be treated to the biggest screen in the world, with digital projection, and the lights all the way out, and the sound fucking cranked. Fresh popcorn, served in tubs. Big comfy reclining seats with lots of leg room. The ultimate movie theatre. The best film experience you'll ever have. However, there are rules at my theatre, and when you sign up you'll have to agree to the consequences of breaking these rules. There will be a lot of paper work. The main rule - the really important one - is that there will be ushers in the theatre at all times, and they will be watching you. If you make even the slightest bit of unnecessary noise... If you talk, for any reason. If you rustle loudly. If your phone rings. If you're one of those obnoxious fuckers who like to crunch on their ice, one cube at a time, when you're done with your drink. If you make any noise at all, the film will stop. The lights will come up. The ushers - who are large, humorless, tattooed men, will drag you from your seat and up to the front of the theatre, where everyone in the audience can heckle you while you are stripped naked. Then your membership card will be torn up, and stuffed down your throat, and each of the massive ushers will have their way with you, one at a time, raping you violently in the arse, in front of everyone. And then when they're done, and you're laying there, naked and humiliated, your ass all kinds of torn up and dripping with man goo, the people in the front row spitting on your broken shell of a body... then the ushers will cut your fucking head off, and they'll hang it in the theatre lobby amongst all the other heads, the "hall of shame" to remind other patrons what will happen if they dare talk during the film. Harsh? Perhaps. But I'm convinced that ruling with an iron fist is the key to cinematic utopia.

But anyway, even if lardass hadn't been noisily gorging herself behind me, and even if the projection hadn't been inexcusably out of focus... the movie still would have sucked. It was a long, bloated, hollow shell of a film, so concerned with trying to be epic that it forgot to be a good movie. And Brad Pitt is a fucking abysmal actor. He's terrible. He wins the Keanu Reeves Honorary Wooden Acting Award for 2004. Don't get me wrong, Brad Pitt is a fine specimen of the male gender. I'm not even gay, and I would go fucking Roman on his chiseled ass something fierce, and probably enjoy it more than most of the sexual experiences I've had with females. But it takes more than perfect abs to carry a film, and good fucking Lord is he terrible in this. I've enjoyed him in other roles in the past, where he didn't have to stretch too far from what must be his real personality: A likable dumb guy. But heroic Greek warrior he is not, and talented actor he most definitely is not. Stick to looking pretty, Brad. It's a better gig for you.

Christ, it's late. Why am I still awake?

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Sunday, April 18, 2004subscribe to demonbaby

"Anything but country," and other MySpace pet peeves.

Okay, so I'm hunnnngover and I don't want to do anything but sit in this chair and not move, so I figured the best way to pass time would be to ramble about stupid bullshit on MySpace.

First things first: 311 is the shittiest band ever. No, really. If you like them, then I hate you, and I hope you get a colon infection.

Second: I hate people who put "Anything but country" as the music that they like. Bullshit. You do NOT like anything but country, you generic fucking douche, I promise I could find an overwhelming supply of non-country music that you absolutely, utterly dispise. How about I beat my penis against a broken violin and scream in German at the top of my lungs while taking a shit, and record it onto a CD? Would you like listening to that? You wouldn't? But it's not country, so you *must* like it! Fuck you. Why don't you tell me what lame fucking music you DO like, instead of pretending that you're so open-minded when in actuality you probably have the most appalingly narrow scope of musical interests. Not that everyone has to be ecclectic, but let's at least be realistic here.

Third: All the hardcore kids who post pictures of their tattoo sleeves to show off how awesome they are. You're not awesome. You're not even remotely unique. You have dumb-looking sleeves like EVERY OTHER HARDCORE KID, not to mention half of the teenage mall punks. It's a trend, you fucking idiot, except you can't take them off when everyone inevitably gets tired of it. It's the equivalent of having a Von Dutch trucker cap permanently attached to your head. Whoops, one of these days it's going to be ridiculously out of style, and you're stuck with it. Also, one of these days you're going to be forty, and surprise, a whole new chapter of your life is starting and you're not a 20 year old douchebag hardcore kid anymore, and maybe you don't really want to have your arms covered in ink. Too bad! Enjoy. There was a time when it was a rarity to see a guy with his arms completely covered in ink. It meant something. Like, "whoa, that dude is tough." He was in prison. He's in a biker gang. He's in a fucking insane punk band. He will kick the shit out of you just for looking at him. These days, it doesn't mean anything at all, because everyone has sleeves. Including the guys in Good Charlotte. Yeah, that's how cool you are. You have sleeves like those awesome dudes. Your edgy, "hardcore" style has become mall fashion. Now enjoy looking down at your dumb arms for the rest of your life.

Fourth: I'm going to go get a sandwich. Sandwiches are fucking awesome.

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Monday, April 12, 2004subscribe to demonbaby

A much-needed grammar lesson for EVERYONE. This is long overdue...

Okay, so for reasons beyond my comprehension, a good ninety five percent of the adult population has somehow never been able to master that nefarious goblin of spelling basics: the difference between your and you're, and the differences between their, there, and they're. I really don't think it's that difficult of a concept, but I know far too many otherwise intelligent people who continue to abuse this particular corner of the english language, and it's time that I did something about it. So for those of you still struggling with fourth grade grammar lessons, here's a little refresher...

LESSON 1: your and you're

YOUR is a pronoun, the possessive form of you, and thus refers specifically to possession. For example, "it is YOUR hat." You possess the hat. "Let's go to YOUR house." You possess the house. "Your friend wants to talk to you." You possess the friend. Well, you probably don't *actually* possess your friend, unless you own your friend as a slave or you're into some kinky dominant/submissive shit. But, you know, grammatically speaking... You get the point.

YOU'RE is simply a contraction of YOU ARE, you being the pronoun of the second person, and are being the present indicative plural of the substantive verb "to be." So, for example, when you say "YOU'RE going to the park," that is the same as saying, "YOU ARE going to the park." Amazing, isn't it? Some examples of this include, "YOU'RE an idiot." "Watch where YOU'RE going." "Let me know when YOU'RE done."

Now that you see how easy it is, let's try a quiz. In the following sentences, fill in the blanks with either YOUR or YOU'RE. When you're done, check the answers below and see how you fared! I know this is stressful, so I've made it easier by creating some sentences that MySpace kids can relate to:

1. "I like ______ haircut, it kind of looks like the one I had three months ago when it was still cool."

2. "______ not going to believe the ironic, faux-vintage t-shirt I got at Urban Outfitters!"

3. "My list of favorite bands is way more informed than ______ list of favorite bands."

4. "I hope ______ going to post those out-of-focus digital pictures from the Bright Eyes show on ______ LiveJournal."

5. "I can't believe ______ still listening to those guys; they already have a video so it's kind of over."

Okay, let's see how you did! Here are the answers: 1. YOUR 2. YOU'RE 3. YOUR 4. YOU'RE, YOUR 5. YOU'RE

If you got all five questions right, congratulations! You're ready to move on to lesson two! If not, I'd suggest going back and reviewing a few more times before you continue. This is pretty hard stuff, even for college-educated adults, so it's important that you feel really comfortable with these concepts.

When you're ready, let's do...

LESSON 2: their, they're, and there

This is a bit trickier, so pay attention!

THEIR is a pronoun, the possessive form of they. It serves the same purpose as YOUR, except it refers to the plural form of he, she, or it. Hence, a GROUP of people. So, when THEY possess something, it is THEIRS. For example, "it is THEIR hat." They possess the hat. "Let's go to THEIR house." They possess the house.

THEY'RE is the contraction of THEY ARE, they being the plural form of he, she, or it, and are being the present indicative plural of the substantive verb "to be." So, THEY'RE serves the same purpose as YOU'RE, except it refers to a group of people. When you use THEY'RE, it is the same as saying THEY ARE. For example, "THEY'RE having us over for dinner." "I don't know where THEY'RE going." "THEY'RE all playing basketball." Not too hard, eh? Well there's one more, and this is where it gets complicated...

THERE is an adverb, meaning "in or at that place." An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, which makes this very different from THEIR and THEY'RE. It is a place. Examples might be, "Let's go over THERE." THERE refers to the destination. "THERE is a dead kitten in the street." THERE refers to the place where the dead kitten is. "He's never been THERE before." THERE refers to the place where he has never been.

Simple enough, right? Let's have another quiz! Fill in the blanks with either THEIR, THEY'RE, or THERE. Good luck!

1. "Don't you think ______ song structure is a bit obvious?"

2. "______ always shopping at Diesel, but they can never afford anything ______ because ______ rent is so high from living on Bedford Ave."

3. "God, I can't believe you rent videos from Blockbuster, ______ exactly the type of corporate monstrosity that's killing off cinema as an art form."

4. "The Voice said Manhattan is the new Brooklyn, so I'm thinking about moving back ______ if I can pick up more bartending shifts and find six people to share a studio with."

5. "______ lyrics are so good, I can never narrow it down to just one part for my headline so I just put the whole song in my 'About Me' because it's like ______ describing my life SO perfectly in that song."

Okay, here are the answers: 1. THEIR 2. THEY'RE, THERE, THEIR 3. THEY'RE 4. THERE 5. THEIR, THEY'RE

Did you get them all right? If so, congratulations! You're finally catching up to a fifth grade education! Your LiveJournal friends are going to be oozing with jealousy over how sparklingly flawless your grammar is when you AIM them! If you missed a few questions, just keep practicing! And always remember, you don't really have to know how to spell to play derivative indie rock songs, so I'm sure you and your band still have a bright future in the music industry! Except that you're in it for art, so you would never want to be part of an "industry" anyway, right? My bad.

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Sunday, February 01, 2004subscribe to demonbaby


An Open Letter To The Ugly People Of MySpace Who Mean To Deceive:

Dear Ugly People,

I know it is difficult being ugly. I know life has put you through the wringer. I know you haven't had the same opportunities that the beautiful people always have. And, above all, I know that the anonymity of the internet represents a tempting and tangible solution to the social boundaries of your homely appearance; and I shall describe your solution thusly:

If you can find one - just ONE picture of yourself, taken from that exact right angle, with the exact right lighting, where you look even passably hot, you can put that up as your default MySpace photo and trick people into taking a closer look when they see your little icon pop up on someone's friend list. Your little tiny advertisement of yourself, targeting would-be suitors. Your miniature first impression that screams to the world, "Click on me! Read about me! Give me a few moments of your precious time so I can impress you with my eclectic list of favorite films! Look how hot I appear to be in my little square! CLICK IT!"

Your little square indeed... Your little square of LIES!

Maybe you're the fat girl with her body cropped out and her head tilted just-so where you can't see her double chin. Maybe you're the balding guy with a hat on, or the "look I'm a rock star" sunglasses so you can't see his creepy, beady little eyes, or the crow's feet that make him look suspiciously older than 23. Maybe you're even the girl with sexy eyeliner, done up in some hipster dress, but the picture has just the right amount of "arty" motion blur to cover up the truth. Or maybe you're that person who is looking slightly away from the camera, placing the emphasis on their hip haircut rather than their beastly features.

Whoever you are, you're not fooling anyone! Because eventually, dear friends, once your deception has pulled us in for a closer look and the verdict of your hotness remains uncertain; and once we've glanced over your carefully-assembled list of favorite bands and witty one-line about how you're looking for someone to make pancakes with at 3 am or something stupid like that... Eventually, my friends, we're going to click on those other photos. You know, the ones that show you in the telling light of a flash bulb, or from the other 359 angles where you DON'T look hot, at all. Eventually, we are going to click those, and you will anger us with your deceit. You will cause us to scowl, and say things like "Damn, she looked kinda hot in her main photo." And then, like a deceptive junk e-mail with a subject line ambiguous enough to warrant an investigative click, you will be discarded. Cast into the ocean of ones and zeros, never to be thought of again.

I come to you with a plea, ugly people: Stop wasting our time. You're not fooling anyone. As difficult as it may be, I implore you to spare us that precious thirty seconds it takes to determine your hotness (or lack thereof). I implore you to spare my mouse buttons the extra wear they incur from all that extra clicking, only to be disappointed. Mostly, I implore you to think of the hurt you're causing. The disappointment to so many... Be honest, ugly people, and don't try to look hot in your default photo. Sooner or later, we will find the truth. And we will be mildly annoyed.


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